Developmental milestones list

Although children vary in their development of speech, language and hearing, certain milestones can be used as guidance for normal development.

Typically basic skills must be accomplished at certain ages before more complex skills can be learned. For example, babies who do not babble and children who do not progress through the stage of ‘playing with sounds’ are at risk of speech difficulties later.

Birth to 3 months

  • reacts to loud sounds with a startle reflex
  • calms down or smiles when spoken to
  • recognises your voice and calms down if crying
  • turns head to you when you speak
  • when feeding, starts or stops sucking in response to sound
  • coos and makes pleasure sounds
  • has different ways of crying for different needs

3 to 6 months

  • looks or turns towards a new sound
  • responds to changes in the tone of your voice
  • enjoys toys that make sounds, e.g. rattles
  • babbles and begins to repeat sounds such as “ooh”, “aah” and “ba-ba”. Especially sounds that begin with p, b, d or m.
  • laughs
  • babbles when excited or unhappy
  • makes gurgling sounds when playing with you, e.g. blowing raspberries

6 to 12 months

  • recognises and responds to own name, telephone ringing and other familiar voices
  • enjoys playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • understands words for common items such as “cup”, “drink”, “bye-bye”
  • understands and responds to simple requests “come here”
  • babbles using groups of sounds such as “tatt”, “upup” and “bibibi”
  • imitates different speech sounds
  • looks at things or pictures when someone talks about them
  • communicates using gestures such as waving or holding up arms
  • has one or two words by first birthday (e.g. “dog”, “dada”, “mama”, “no”, “bye-bye”)
  • simplifies certain words (e.g. biscuit becomes “bi”)

12 to 18 months

  • points to pictures when asked
  • points to or looks at familiar objects or people when asked to do so
  • enjoys simple songs, rhymes and being read to
  • understands a few body parts and can point to them when asked
  • understands 10-20 words
  • may use a few single words meaningfully

18 months to 2 years

  • understands simple yes/no questions (e.g. “are you hungry?”)
  • understands and follows simple phrases/commands (e.g. “on the table”, “roll the ball”)
  • uses 1-2 word phrases (e.g. “more milk”, “bye-bye daddy”)
  • asks 1-2 word questions (e.g. “where’s mummy?”)
  • uses lots of different constant sounds at the beginning of words
  • acquires new words on a regular basis

2 to 3 years

  • understands “not now” and “no more”
  • chooses things by size (e.g. big or little)
  • follows 2 step commands (e.g. “get your shoes and come here”)
  • understands several action words (e.g. run or jump)
  • has a word for almost everything
  • uses 2-3 word phrases to communicate
  • uses speech that can be understood by family members and friends
  • names objects to ask for them
  • uses k, g, f, t, d and n sounds

3 to 4 years

  • uses sentences with 4 or more words
  • speaks easily without having to repeat syllables or words
  • hears you when you call from another room
  • hears the television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members
  • answers simple who, what, where and why questions
  • talks about activities at day care, play dates or other family/friend’s homes

4 to 5 years

  • hears and understands most of what is said at home
  • pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about it
  • uses adult grammar
  • names some letters and numbers
  • uses rhyming words
  • communicates easily with other children and adults outside the family
  • uses detailed sentences and tells stories that stay on topic
  • says most sounds correctly except for a few (l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh and th)

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