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baby girl holding a brush as if it was a telephone

Language development: Your baby’s talking timeline

4min

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During their first years, you’ll be amazed at how your little one goes from babbling to knowing how to participate in conversations. We’ve put together a talking timeline of what you can expect of your little one’s language development during this exciting time. This will give you a general idea of their progress.

Remember every baby is different and develops at their own pace. It’s perfectly normal if your little one reaches these stages a little early or a little late.

Baby’s and children’s language development

Birth to 3 months

These first months are all about your baby’s sounds and gestures. You’ll hear them make vowel and guttural sounds to express themselves. They’ll start experimenting with moving their arms, so you might see them shake them if something catches their attention. During these months pay attention to their facial expressions. Through them, they’ll let you know if they like or dislike something.

4-7 months

During this time your little one will pay more attention to the sounds and voices they hear. At first, they’ll be most interested in the tone of your voice and they’ll start playing with the tone of their babbles as well. This is why when they’re crying and hear your soothing voice, they’ll calm down knowing you are there to comfort them. Continue paying attention to their facial expressions, because they’ll let you know their likes and dislikes. They’ll become much more responsive to the sounds you make, and they’ll try to follow your lead. Try to introduce simple syllables and words; they’ll start making repeated syllable sounds.

8-12 months

Even though you’ve been having conversations with them since they were born, your baby can now understand more than you think, so your conversations will take on new significance. They’ll start babbling while you talk; simulating a conversation. They’ll also start asking for help with their babbles and gestures. By the end of their first year, they’ll be pointing at the objects they want and imitating words you say. They’ll say “mama” and “dada” to refer to their parents and they’ll turn to familiar objects when they are named.

Remember that for your child a “word” is any sound that consistently refers to the same person, object, or event. So, as your little one tries to imitate syllables and understand word phrases, you might hear “mog” every time she wants milk. You should treat “mog” as a legitimate word, but reply with “milk”. Eventually, they’ll make the correction themselves. Around their first birthday, their words will consist of a sort of gibberish that has the variations of understandable speech. So, as long as they’re experimenting with sounds that vary in intensity, pitch, and quality, they’re getting ready to talk.

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13-18 months

During these months your little one will start answering your questions by changing their behavior, gestures, or words. They’ll be able to point to “Mom” and “Dad” and familiar objects when they hear their name. They’ll have lots of fun playing with you and pointing to animal images and imitating their sounds. They’ll start growing their repertoire of words with meaning.

19-24 months

Around these months you’ll see their language development grow exponentially. They’ll know the names of foods and body parts. They’ll now be able to name a few of the familiar objects you play with and make simple one-word statements about what you recently did. They’ll repeat the words they hear in your conversations and start using one word to express a whole thought like “park” to let you know they want to go to the park.

25-30 months

By now they’ll be able to understand almost everything you say. They’ll be able to say the correct name when referring to common objects and start using possessive words, so the word “mine” might come up a lot. They’ll start combining nouns and verbs like “mommy go” to express that they want you to come. They’ll also be able to answer simple who, what, and where questions. At first, they’ll make their own version of a whole sentence by combining a single word with a gesture or grunt. They might point and say “ball”. That will be their way of telling you they want you to give them the toy. They might shape a question by saying “Out?” or “Up?”, raising their voice at the end. You’ll hear that their pronunciation improves and they’ll start describing an object’s characteristics with simple words like “red”. “Dada” might finally come out as “Daddy”.

31-36 months

By this time, they’ll be able to comprehend a series of events; thus, they’ll answer simple questions about the stories you’ve read together. They’ll be able to explain their drawings and share their meaning with you. In addition to talking about their immediate experiences, they’ll now be able to tell you about events and people they encountered during the day. You’ll be able to carry out longer and more meaningful conversations with them.

37-48 months

Around this time, you’ll stop being the only one that can understand your little one when they speak. They’ll be so clear when expressing their ideas that strangers will be able to understand them as well. They’ll tell stories and learn more about the grammar rules of language. Their sentences will become more complex as they choose the right verbs, nouns, or pronouns to arrange in the correct order. You’ll have quite the conversationalist in your hands!

Remember that the best way to support their language development is through meaningful interactions. Read about this at: The influence of attention and caregiver input on language development.

You can also check how to encourage your child’s language development here.

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8 thoughts on “Language development: Your baby’s talking timeline”

  1. My baby is 20 months old but he can’t talk he just sy mama baba and only give clues to understand his talk like want feeder just raise his hand to the feeder what should I do to improve his speaking skill any idea

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for reaching out. Each baby develops at his own pace, but if you are worried it’s probably a good idea to talk to your pediatrician about it during your next visit. Most toddlers are able to say about 15 words at the end of the second year, so your baby still has some months to improve his language. We recommend singing to your baby, exposure to music develops language skills. Also, read to him, listening to your voice is a great opportunity to improve his skills too. Try to have conversations with him even if he is not answering yet. Motivate him and celebrate each achievement he has!

      1. as little boy i diagnosed with amount of water that stucked inside the inner ear (due to a narrow nasal and ear passages) which slowed my language development due to difficulty to hear with the water inside my ear.
        after a quick and safe surgeon procedure in both of my ears which they inserted 2 small pipes that helped the water to drain and it kept like that for a year (it ejecting by itself after a year) my mom told me that in couple of mounts my speaking improve superbly .
        my advice is to consult with a ENT doctor.
        good luck!

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