Learning to communicate is possibly the most important thing that happens in a person’s first few years of life, and as a parent it can be amazing to watch your child develop seemingly every day, going from a crying newborn to a willful toddler who can tell you what they want and understand a lot of your instructions. The milestones at which babies develop in terms of speech are not the same for every child, and your own son or daughter may move through stages faster or slower without this being an indication of any problems. However, as a guide, here is what the average baby can do at the following ages:
For the first three months of life, people tend not to have the coordination to make consonant sounds and haven’t figured out how to use their mouths to form sounds. This means that the only way a baby can express themselves is by crying. However, you will probably notice that the cries vary depending on what he or she wants attention for. There may be a different cry or scream for a soiled diaper to the one they make for hunger.
This is when your baby is likely to start playing with sounds and beginning to ‘baby talk’. This is when you will hear all of those ‘gaga-googoo’ noises. There is a chance you may hear what sound like words, such as ‘dada’, however at this stage a baby doesn’t yet connect the sounds they make with a meaning as language, so don’t be too surprised if he or she is saying ‘dada’ when her dad isn’t around!
At this point, the baby will start to make lyrical babbling sounds that almost sound like they are talking properly but in another language. They are mimicking sounds they hear around them, for example from you and the TV, so feed their curious mind by reading and talking to them.
It is at this point in a child’s development where they will be using one or two words knowing what they mean. Their vocabulary will grow and you may notice that they even start to use cadences and inflections correctly, like going up at the end of a word when it is a question or request.
As a child approaches their second birthday, they will be able to use around 50 words and will also be able to form very basic sentences of two or three words. At this age, the things that confuse children most about language are pronouns, so you may hear him or her refer to themselves in the third person or say ‘me’ when they should say ‘I’. Around the age of two, you can expect them to start using their words to say how they feel, and this is why people often find their baby becomes a little difficult at this age – they have learned to say no and to say when they don’t like something, and they tend to exercise this power a lot to try it out.
A toddler’s vocabulary will develop daily during this time, and they will begin to phrase things properly and refer to themselves correctly. One problem they may have at this age is in controlling the volume of their speech, so you may find they shout a lot without realizing that this is inappropriate.
By the age of three, most children are quite good at communicating through speech and are quite talkative. However, in most cases where a child is behind the typical curve at this age, they catch up later and have no long term problems with speech or confidence as a result. If your child doesn’t talk at all at the age of three you may however want to keep an eye on the situation as there could be an indication of developmental delay which may need further investigation or therapy.