Toddler Time to Speak Out

Toddler Time to Speak Out

- in Health

By Hannah Ross Hange

As speech skills develop for these little ones, here’s some helpful tips on keeping track of milestones and if you should worry.

Children begin building speech skills from birth, then develop sounds over time, and eventually, use all speech sounds correctly. As parents, we wonder if our children are talking the way they should for their age. Here are some basics about what to expect and when to worry.

Sound Milestones

Here are some speech developmental stages to watch for as your child grows.

Birth to 6 Months

• Responds to sounds (startles, turns head).
• Quiets to familiar voices.
• 6 months, responds to name.
• Vocalizes when someone speaks to them. • Begins to coo.

7 – 12 Months

• Stops what he or she is doing when name spoken to them.
• Responds to simple commands or requests such as “come here” or “stop that.”
• Demonstrates facial expressions and smiles.
• Begins to babble.
• Gestures by reaching and pointing with vocalization.
• Waves bye‐bye, gives five, seeks attention from others and plays turn‐ taking games such as peekaboo.
• Imitates sounds such as: animals (woof, moo) and cars (beep).

12 – 24 Months

• Understands at least 300 words and follows simple directions such as “get diaper” or “throw ball.”
• Points to body parts when named.
• First words emerge around 12 months with a minimum of 50‐100 words by age 2.
• Common first words include names (mama, dada), objects (nana – banana), verbs (go, up, eat), yes/no, and please.
• Listeners understand 65 percent of what your child is saying by age 2.

2 – 3 Years

• Follows a two‐step direction such as “Put on your shoes and get your coat.”
• Answers what and where questions. • Listens to 5‐10 minute story.
• Vocabulary expands to approximately 900‐1,000 words between age 2 and 3.
• Begins to combine words such as “eat cookie,” “more juice,” “my ball.”
• Continues to expand to 3‐4 words by age 3 such as “me eat cookie now.”
• Names a few objects by function.
• Listeners understand approximately 80 percent of what your child is saying by age 3.

3 – 5 Years

• Follows three‐step directions by age 5.
• Understands concepts of quantity (more/less), quality (big/little), and spatial terms (top, bottom, above, below).
• Asks and answers questions (what, where, who, why).
• Vocabulary increases to approximately 1,900 words by age 4‐1/2; 2,200 by age 5.
• Uses 4‐7 word sentences.
• Asks meaning of words.
• Tells long stories.
• Listeners understand almost all of what your child is saying.
• Child shows an interest in books and remembers information from book.
• Recognizes sounds and letters in name.

Problems with Speech
Both children and adults can have a speech disorder. It can occur as a result of a medical problem or have no known cause.

Many children with speech disorders are hard for others to understand. A speech sound (or articulation) disorder is when a child has difficulty making speech sounds. For example, if a child says “dup” when he is trying to say “cup”, this is a problem with speech sounds. It would be fine if a 12‐month‐old child said “dup” for “cup” but that would not be expected at age 4. Children with speech disorders are unable to make sounds that would be expected for their age.

Get Help

If you’re worried, it is a good idea to get your child tested. A licensed Speech‐Language Pathologist can evaluate or test your child to determine if your child actually has a speech disorder.

If your child is diagnosed with a speech disorder, individual and group treatment is offered for children of all ages. Treatment for a speech disorder is always a team effort between caregivers, the clinician, and the child.

A clinician will see your child for a limited time each week, so by working with your child at home and completing home carryover activities, you will see your child progress much faster.

The length of treatment depends on various factors, such as the severity of your child’s disorder, how consistent therapy is attended, how well your child is able to participate in therapy activities, and parent involvement with therapy practice at home. Clinicians will regularly discuss your child’s progress with you. If you have any questions, speak with your therapist.

For more information on speech development, visit or Hannah Ross Hange is a speech‐language pathologist at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center.

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