Important Communication Milestones

Important Communication Milestones

One of the most common questions I hear from parents is “How much language should my child be using for their age?” As our children grow up, there are certain “communication milestones” that we can watch for which will help us know how they are developing. I thought it would be helpful to go over some of these briefly.

The following is a list of communication milestones taken from Linguisystems, Inc.

3-6 months

  • Smiles spontaneously to human contact
  • Smiles when playing alone
  • Smiles at faces of several family members
  • Stops crying when spoken to
  • Shows different responses to different family members

6-9 months

  • Responds to Come here
  • Becomes more outgoing with familiar people
  • Shows anxiety when separated from favorite caregiver
  • Likes to be with specific people

9-12 months

  • Reacts to others moods
  • Is fearful of strangers
  • Can tolerate momentary loss of contact with caregiver in unfamiliar places
  • Shows off to get attention

12-18 months

  • Has an expressive vocabulary of between 5-20 words
  • Is aware of the value of communication
  • Follows simple directions, especially with gesture
  • Practices intonation, sometimes imitating an adult
  • Uses mostly nouns with a few others, such as down or up
  • Uses much, meaningful jargon with inflection and emotion

19-24 months

  • Names common objects
  • Uses two or three more prepositions such as on, in, or under
  • Uses noun + verb consistently
  • Family understands about 2/3 of what child says
  • Receptive and expressive vocabulary is about 150-300 words
  • Rhythm and fluency of speech is poor
  • Control of pitch and volume is poor
  • My and mine emerging (like a vengeance!)
  • Follows commands, such as Show me your nose

25-36 months

  • Uses I, you, and me correctly
  • Uses some plurals and past tenses
  • Knows principle body parts
  • Uses three-word sentences
  • Has about 900 words
  • Family understands about 90% of what child says
  • Verbs emerge quickly
  • Understands and responds to questions dealing with immediate environment
  • Tells about his experiences
  • Can answer thinking questions, such as What do you want when you’re thirsty?
  • Gives name, age, and gender
  • Understands much more than he expresses

4 years

  • Knows names of animals
  • Uses at least four prepositions
  • Knows some colors
  • Can repeat four digits when given slowly
  • Can repeat a four-syllable word
  • Knows contrasts such as larger and longer
  • Follows directions when desired object is not in sight
  • Repeats many words, phrases, syllables, and sounds
  • Loves make-believe and takes on multiple roles during play
  • Talks extensively during play by himself or with others

5 years

  • Uses adjectives and adverbs extensively in conversation
  • Knows opposites such as on-off, big-little, heavy-light, and soft-hard
  • Counts to ten
  • All speech should be intelligible, but articulation errors may persist
  • Can repeat sentences as long as nine words
  • Can define common words, such as shoe, chair, hat, and bird
  • Can follow three-stage commands without help
  • Understands simple time concepts, such as morning, later, and tomorrow
  • Verbal language is generally correct
  • Uses long sentences, including some compound and complex constructions

Keep in mind that this chart represents typical language development, and you can use this as a “barometer” of sorts to measure where your child is with their communication. There is a wide range of normal development, so there is some room for growth within these age brackets. However if you find that your child is falling significantly behind in regards to these age brackets it may be a good idea to have them evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist.

You can download the PDF file of this list here.


  1. This is a great list – better than most that I’ve seen. I can see areas in which K needs to work (she’ll be five in March) and that she’s caught up on most of the milestones that she was missing! Thanks for this great resource for parents/caregivers of children with language delay (or not!).

  2. What a super list. We were so incredibly fortunate to have an awesome speech therapist when my daughter was 3. It’s because of this wonderful woman that my daughter speaks as clearly as she does today. Kudos for providing this.

  3. Thanks for this informative website. I found it extremely helpful and beneficial. I have two boys: 3 1/2 and barely 1 so it was great to see your milestones and measure them up to it.


  4. Your blog is just gorgeous! I’m very excited to find a fellow SLP with a blog about helping parents and children with speech and language! Check out my blog too. I’d love your thoughts!

  5. I am a Speech Pathologist and have developed a “learning tool” called Talking With The ABC’s that can be found at This product was designed to give parents ideas to help promote functional speech with their child as well as a fun way to introduce early functional consonant vowel combinations, words, and phrases to toddlers and preschoolers through video, audio, and a picture booklet. I need help in figuring out ways to make the product known to families. Please see the testimony on my web page.


  6. Thank you for this informative and helpful website. I am excited to now try these exercises with my 2 year old son (27 months). He is currently in speech therapy 1 hour per week and the therapist has explained he is doing well but has a lazy tongue and leaves the endings off his words when talking. Will there be ending word letter sheets for K P T?

  7. You can find the /k/ sounds here:, and the /t/ sounds here:, I will be posting the /p/ sounds soon so keep checking back.


  8. Hi,
    I found your link on Marnee Brick’s blog on Tiny Eye. I am a practicing SLP, expert advisor for iParenting Media/Walt Disney Internet Group and a free lance writer. It’s nice to see other SLP’s focusing on educating parents. I have enjoyed your site and your You Tube video with your daughter reading. Very cute!

  9. We have a very similar list on our website at It is so important for parents to be aware of age appropriate stages their children should be experiencing. The earlier a difference is observed, the better it is. The sooner intervention occurs, the higher the chance that the child will adhere to normalcy. Thank you for spreading communication awareness to our communities!

  10. I’m a but concerned about my son’s speech, he is 27 1/2 months old. It was brought to my attention by a few family members. He is very smart about pointing at things and can give me things I ask him for but he is very non verbal. He cries alot when he wants things. He will take me by the hand to the kitchen and point to what he wants. I can tell he understands alot of what I say to him but he doesn’t speak much. He says very few words and he says alot of baby tall which no one can understand. He mostly screams or cries for what he wants. He doesn’t really called mommy or mom not even ma. I’m so concerned, should I worry?

  11. Hi Rosanna,
    As you know from reading the article, typically, children his age are putting 2-3 words together and communicating consistently. With what you are describing, I would suggest that you take your son to be evaluated by a local speech therapist at an Early Intervention center in your area. It sounds like he is getting frustrated because he is not able to communicate his wants and needs. Getting a speech therapist to help him with this will help relieve a lot of his frustration and well as yours. Good luck and let me know how it goes.