Communication Milestones for Children

Being able to communicate is essential for all of us. The first three years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.

Children vary in their development of speech and language skills. However, they all follow a natural progression or milestones for mastering language and communication skills. Parents or caregivers are made aware of these to track how their child develops. These milestones are guidelines as every child learns to communicate at their own pace, and no two children are the same. They are in place as general milestones to serve as a guide to speech and language development.

These milestones also help CCH paediatricians, and allied healthcare providers determine if a child is on track or may need extra help. Sometimes a delay may be caused by hearing loss, while other times, it may be due to a speech or language disorder or autism (ASD).

A checklist of milestones for developing speech and language skills in children from birth to three years of age is below. If you feel your child isn’t developing some or any of these milestones, you may need to talk to your GP for a referral to see us. Aside from not reaching milestones, there may be other aspects affecting your child, and that is where we can help.

Here are the milestones as a guideline:

Birth to five months:

  • Smile when you appear
  • Make cooing or gurgling sounds
  • Quiet or smile when spoken to
  • Seem to recognise your voice
  • Cry differently for different needs.

Six to 11 months:

  • Babbles ( like boooboboo, dddaa)
  • Points at things and tries to communicate with gestures
  • Understands No
  • Starts repeating sounds from parents or caregivers
  • Can say the first word

12- 17 months:

  • Can point and communicate by actions
  • Can say a few words, though they may not be clear
  • Copies a few words
  • Has the use of four to six words
  • Knows body parts, like “where’s your nose?”

18-23 months

  • Has about 50 words though some may be difficult to decipher
  • Makes animal noises, i.e. dogs go Woof
  • Starts to combine words and two-word communication, i.e. more milk

Two-three years

  • Understands the difference between in or on, you me her
  • Sentences now contain three words
  • Speech is coming together, though non-family members may not understand
  • Can answer questions, i.e. are you hungry? What? Where? Who?
  • Starts to use plurals


For further reading

Speech Pathology Australia