Topic Overview

Speech and language development milestones relate to receptive
language (the ability to understand words and sounds) and expressive language
(the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning).

Most 1-year-olds begin to understand the meanings of words. Their
receptive language grows from understanding names of people and objects, to
being able to follow simple requests sometime between ages 1 and 2. Expressive
language advances from primarily using gestures and babbling at age 1, to using
words, simple phrases, and some early sentence structures between ages 2 and 3.

Speech and language milestones
Age Receptive language Expressive language

1-year-olds (12 months to 24 months):

  • Learn that words have
    meaning.
  • Usually recognize the names of family members and familiar
    objects.
  • Understand simple statements such as “all gone” and “give
    me.”
  • Between 1 and 2 years, understand simple requests such as
    “give daddy the ball.”
  • By 18 months, know the names of people, body
    parts, and objects.
  • Use gestures, such as
    pointing.
  • Babble less than babies do.
  • Often make one-
    or two-syllable sounds that stand for items they want, such as “baba” for
    “bottle,” and point to things they want.
  • Between 12 months and 18
    months of age, may use their own language, sometimes called jargon, that is a
    mix of made-up words and understandable words.
  • Between 1 and 2
    years, usually can say between 20 and 50 words that are intelligible to family
    members.

2-year-olds (24 months to 36 months):

  • Know the name of at least seven body
    parts.
  • Increase their understanding of object
    names.
  • Follow simple requests (such as “put the book on the
    table”).
  • When asked, point to a picture of something named (such as “Where is the cow?” or “Show me the airplane.”)
  • Continue to learn and use
    gestures.
  • Sometimes talk a lot, although some are
    quiet.
  • If quiet, develop a communication system using gestures and
    facial expressions.
  • Usually can name some body parts (such as arms
    and legs), favorite toys, and familiar objects (such as cats and
    dogs).
  • Use pronouns like “me” and “you,” but they often get them
    mixed up.
  • Can make phrases, such as “no bottle” or “want
    cookie.”
  • By age 3, usually can say between 150 to 200 words.
    Strangers can understand them about 75% of the time.footnote 1

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Andrews JS, Fieldman HM (2011). Language delay. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 331-334. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD – Pediatrics
John Pope, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD – Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017