Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About Speech and Language Milestones in Children Ages 1 to 3
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Learning About Speech and Language Milestones in Children Ages 1 to 3

What are speech and language milestones?

Speech and language are the skills we use to communicate with others. They relate to a child's ability to understand words and sounds and to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning.

Speech and language milestones help tell whether a child is gaining these skills as expected. But keep in mind that the age at which children reach milestones is different for each child. Some children learn quickly. Others develop more slowly.

What can you expect?

Here are some of the things children may do at each age milestone.

Ages 1 to 2 years

  • Understand that words have meaning.
  • Know the names of family members and familiar objects. Start to know the names of other people, body parts, and objects.
  • Make simple statements and understand simple requests, such as "All gone" and "Give daddy the ball."
  • Use gestures, such as pointing.
  • Make one- or two-syllable sounds that stand for items they want, such as "baba" for "bottle."
  • Use their own language that is a mix of made-up words and real words.
  • Say 20 to 50 words that family understands.

Ages 2 to 3 years

  • Recognize the names of at least seven body parts, and can name some of these.
  • Increase their understanding of the names of things.
  • 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?"
  • Continue to learn and use gestures.
  • Develop a way to communicate using gestures and facial expressions if they are quiet and don't talk much.
  • Name favourite toys and familiar objects.
  • Use pronouns like "me" and "you," but may get them mixed up.
  • Make phrases, such as "No bottle" or "Want cookie."
  • Say 150 to 200 words by age 3. Strangers may be able to understand them about 75% of the time.

How can you encourage speech and language learning?

The best way to help your child learn is to talk and read to your child. Doing these things will help your child learn language skills faster. Try these ideas:

  • Read to your child every day from books with colourful pictures and a few words. Point to the pictures and words while you read.
  • When you read with your child, leave the TV off. TV can distract both of you.
  • Tell your child what you are doing. Say, "I am changing your diaper" and "I'm washing your face."
  • Tell your child the names of favourite toys and other common objects.
  • Praise your child when he or she correctly names something. When your child says "doggie" and points to a dog, reply, "Yes, that is a doggie." You can keep the conversation going by asking, "And what does the doggie say?"

What can you do if your child has trouble?

Mild and temporary speech delays can happen. And some children learn to communicate faster than others do.

Your doctor will check your child's speech and language skills during routine checkups. But call your doctor, nurse call line, or a speech-language pathologist anytime you have concerns about how your child is developing. A child can overcome many speech and language problems with treatment, especially when you catch problems early.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter S993 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Speech and Language Milestones in Children Ages 1 to 3".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.