Language Development of Infant & Toddlers

Babies begin learning language from the moment they are born, according to the American Federation of Teachers. Language development is typically comprised of several factors, including being able to talk, being able to be understood and understanding what parents and other children say 1. While each infant and toddler develops his language skills at a different rate and speaks different first words, there are many developmental milestones.

3 to 6 Months

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most babies begin babbling by 4 months. Other hearing and speech developments that occur by the end of 3 months include smiling at the sound of his parents’ voices, imitating some sounds and turning his head toward the direction of sound. By 6 or 7 months, most babies can respond to their names, respond to “no,” recognize emotions by voice tone and respond to sound by making sounds. Other developments at this age include using his voice to express displeasure or joy, as well as babbling chains of sounds.

1 Year

By their first birthday, most babies are paying attention to speech, responding to “no,” responding to simple verbal requests, babbling with inflection or tone, and using simple non-verbal communication gestures such as shaking the head. Other milestones include saying “mama” or “dada,” trying to imitate words and using exclamations such as “uh oh!”


Most children begin to speak during their second and third years. Some milestones by the end of the second year include pointing to pictures or objects when they are named, using simple phrases, saying several single words and following simple instructions. Other common language developments between 18 and 24 months include recognizing names of familiar objects, people and body parts, as well as repeating words overheard in conversations. By the end of year three, most toddlers understand most sentences and use four- to five-word sentences. Other developmental milestones at this age include following two- or three-part commands; understanding placement (“in” and “under”); speaking his name, age and sex; using pronouns; and being understood by strangers.

Encourage Development

Early language is connected with emotional development, and things that help a baby learn to communicate also help him to develop socially and emotionally 1. It’s important for parents and caregivers to spend time with infants and speak to them. Some activities that encourage language development include talking to babies a lot, reading to them, narrating your daily activities and singing songs 1. Parents should talk to their babies in their native languages, because they need to hear language spoken correctly.

Language Development Disabilities

Parents typically know their children best, and if you are concerned that your baby is not developing language skills as quickly or thoroughly as other babies his age, then talk to his doctor. It’s important to identify developmental disabilities early, and most can be treated. Some common disabilities that affect language development are autism, hearing loss, vision impairment and intellectual disabilities 1.