Speech and language development milestones relate to receptive language (the ability to understand words and sounds) and expressive language (the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning).
Most 1-year-olds begin 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
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," and point to things they want.
- Between 12 months and 18 months of age, may use their own language, sometimes called jargon, that 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. 1
- Andrews JS, Fieldman HM (2011). Language delay. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 331–334. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics