700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Speech and Communication Development – Birth to 3 Years

Dec 21, 2022
Baby and her dad

Every child develops their communication skills in their own unique way. Following general milestones will help you see if your child is on the right track.

How Many Words Should My Child Be Saying?

Between the ages of 6-12 months your child should begin babbling sounds in different vowel/consonant combinations and saying their first words. First consonant sounds are usually: m, b, p, h, w, y, n, d, t, g, c or k.

At the age of 1-2 years old children should begin expanding their vocabulary and using one-two word phrases, for example “more milk.”

At the age of 2-3 years old children should have around 50 or more words in their vocabulary, be able to combine 2 or more words in statements, and ask simple questions.

What Should My Child Understand?

At the age of 6-12 months your child should begin responding to their name, understand the meaning of “no,” and use gestures such as lifting their arms up when requesting to be picked up or waving “bye-bye.”

At the age of 2-3 years old children will begin pointing to identify body parts and familiar objects, following routines (“clean up”), and following two-step directions. Children should also be able to engage in pretend play and understand actions such as eating, running, or playing.

How Can I Help My Child?

Use toys and familiar objects to model language and expand their usage of phrases during play-based activities. This can include:

  • Singing nursery rhymes with gestures - for example, “Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
  • Playing “ready, set, go” on the swings or slide. Having the child anticipate what is going to happen by pausing before saying “go,” or prompting the child to say “go.”
  • Using puzzles with colors, shapes, and animals and labeling each piece while the child puts it in.
  • Playing with blocks and modeling “up, up, up” and then having your child knock them down while modeling “down.”
  • Bath time: requesting “more water” or “more bubbles.”
  • Snack time: “banana or crackers,” “yum,” or “do you want more.”

How Do the Five Senses Help Language Development?

Children use combinations of senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) to begin to understand different things and experiences in their world. If one or more of these senses is impaired, children will likely learn to communicate differently. If you have any questions about your child’s ability to hear or see, please ask your child’s pediatrician, and consider getting a full hearing or vision evaluation.

Speech Pathology at Nationwide Children's Hospital
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Featured Expert

Reilly Harrington, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Reilly Harrington, CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist at the Ontario Close to Home Center.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.