Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 1 to 3 Years

Overview

Speech and language development milestones relate to two areas:

  • Receptive language. This is the ability to understand words and sounds.
  • Expressive language. This is the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning.

Most 1-year-olds start to understand the meanings of words. Their receptive language grows from understanding names of people and objects to being able to follow simple requests sometime between ages 1 and 2. Expressive language advances from primarily using gestures and babbling at age 1, to using words, simple phrases, and some early sentence structures between ages 2 and 3.

Speech and language milestones

Age

Receptive language

Expressive language

1-year-olds (12 months to 24 months):

  • Learn that words have meaning.
  • Usually recognize the names of family members and familiar objects.
  • Understand simple statements such as "all gone" and "give me."
  • Between 1 and 2 years, understand simple requests such as "give daddy the ball."
  • By 18 months, know the names of people, body parts, and objects.
  • Use gestures, such as pointing.
  • Babble less than babies do.
  • Often make one- or two-syllable sounds that stand for items they want, such as "baba" for "bottle." They point to things they want.
  • Between 12 months and 18 months of age, may use their own language, sometimes called jargon. It's is a mix of made-up words and understandable words.
  • Between 1 and 2 years, usually can say between 20 and 50 words that are intelligible to family members.

2-year-olds (24 months to 36 months):

  • Know the name of at least seven body parts.
  • Increase their understanding of object names.
  • 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?" or "Show me the airplane.")
  • Continue to learn and use gestures.
  • Sometimes talk a lot, although some are quiet.
  • If quiet, develop a communication system using gestures and facial expressions.
  • Usually can name some body parts (such as arms and legs), favorite toys, and familiar objects (such as cats and dogs).
  • Use pronouns like "me" and "you," but they often get them mixed up.
  • Can make phrases, such as "no bottle" or "want cookie."
  • By age 3, usually can say between 150 to 200 words. Strangers can understand them about 75% of the time.

Credits

Current as of: August 3, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics