Ready, Steady … Talk!

The first three years of life are considered to be a critical period for language development. Children are especially prewired during this time of life to absorb and learn from the language models they hear in their environment. It is a rapid growth period for communication development and never again in life will a person learn so much about language in such a short time. Within three years, children grow from beings whose main language is crying to little persons who can debate with their parents!

Language development in the first three years can be divided in three stages.

Precursors to Language: 0-11 months

During this time, your baby communicates constantly, but not with words. The ability to communicate develops sequentially; and more advanced skills build onto a foundation of earlier skills, just as motor development does. These precursors need to be in place before children can say their first words. Language development milestones in the first year include:


Language Development Milestones

From birth

Eye contact and visual preference for faces
Differentiated crying – has different cries for different needs
Shows preference for mother’s voice

4-6 weeks

First smile

7-9 weeks

First vocalizations of vowel-like sounds

3-6 months

Vocalizes to caregiver’s smile and talk
Makes throaty consonant sounds (h, k, g)

6-9 months

Locates source of sound
Babbles to gain attention and uses more consonants (f,v,s,z, m,n)

9-11 months

Imitates tongue clicks and kisses
Babbles two syllables (da-da, mi-mi)
Understands and carries out simple commands

From Babbling to Words: 12-21 months

Around a year old, the magical moment occurs when your child says her first word. The language precursors laid the foundation, and now the time is here to start using real words. During the next six months, you can expect the following language development milestones:


Language Development Milestones

12-15 months

Uses one or two common words meaningfully
Understands key words in familiar situations

15-18 months

Babbles short sentences with inflection
Points to familiar persons, animals, or toys on request

18-21 months

Uses 6-20 recognizable words
Points to own nose, eye, mouth, and hair


Baby » Speech and language

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