Speech & Language Development in Infants & Young Children

By Carly Seifert
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Watching your child's language development is an interesting and rewarding experience. During his first three years, your little one will go from the sweet coos of a newborn baby to the endless chatter of a busy toddler. Each stage will bring with it new speech milestones involving language awareness and understanding.

Birth to 3 Months

While it might not seem as though your newborn is working hard at developing her language skills, she actually is observing and learning from you. According to MayoClinic.com, by the time your baby is 3 months old, she will be able to make cooing sounds and cry differently depending on her needs. She takes her cues from the pitch and volume of your voice, crying if you raise your voice and calming if you speak to her in soothing tones.

4 to 7 Months

By 4 months, your infant's coos will turn to babbles. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, he is now beginning to notice the individual sounds that you make when you speak to him -- the vowels and consonants that form syllables and words. Encourage his babbling by talking to him throughout the day and repeating any syllables that he says back to him. Although you won't yet be able to decipher any words from the babbling, he will be able to understand many of your words well before he turns 1.

8-12 Months

During this stage, your baby will begin communicating nonverbally by pointing and gesturing. As she practices her babbling, she might -- quite unintentionally -- stumble upon words such as "mama" or "dada." When you show your excitement, she will realize she has said something important and keep practicing this new-found word throughout the day. She might begin imitating words she hears you say and will understand much of what you say to her.


By the end of your toddler's second year, she will have mastered around 50 spoken words and might even begin to put two words together to form simple sentences. KidsHealth.org says that during the second year, your little one will also begin to follow simple commands and might be able to identify familiar people and body parts by pointing when asked. Her early words might be indistinguishable to others because she might have trouble pronouncing certain sounds or omit the ends of words, but you will likely learn to understand her over time.


Your 2-year-old's language will develop rapidly, and he will learn new words every day. During his third year he will begin using longer sentences comprising five or six words and using pronouns in place of names. He will start using his language in more complex ways to describe what he is doing or how he is feeling. He will also begin to speak more clearly, and by his third birthday, according to KidsHealth.org, you should be able to understand 75 percent of what he says.