Language and Speech Development From Birth to 8 years old

Language And Speech Development: From Birth to 8 Years



Children’s language develops through a series of identifiable stages as outlined in the language development charts below.

Not all children will follow the exact sequence below. This is presented so that you will know what to expect from your child as children vary in the speed with which they reach these milestones.

You should seek advice from your child’s language and speech therapist if she seems to be significantly behind in her speech development. 

Pre-linguistic Stage: 0 to 12 Months

The first stage of development in the process of children learning to use language is the pre-linguistic stage. Babies use this stage to learn how to communicate with others.

During the first stage of life, babies rapidly learn how to communicate with their carers, so that by the age of 12 months, most babies understand what is being said to them and are starting to communicate their needs by pointing or by showing their carer objects.

Language and Speech Development Chart: 0 to 12 Months

0-3 Months
    • Recognises different tones of voices
  • Coos and gurgles when content
  • Cries to show hunger, tiredness and distress
  • Smiles in response to others’ faces
  • Recognises carer’s voice.

6 Months
    • Babbles and coos
  • Babbles consist of short sounds e.g. ‘da da, ma ma’
  • Laughs, chuckles and squeals
  • Cries to show distress
  • Begin to understand emotion in parent or carer’s voice
  • Begin to enjoy music and rhymes accompanied by actions.

9 Months
    • Babbling continues
  • Begin to recognise own name
  • Imitate simple words
  • Pointing begins. This is often accompanied by a sound or the beginnings of a word. This demonstrates an increasing awareness that words are associated with people and objects
  • Babbling begins to reflect the intonation of speech
  • May understand simple, single words e.g. bye bye.

12 Months
    • Babbling becomes more tuneful and inventive
  • Strings vowels and consonants together to make repetitive sounds
  • Use gestures to ask for things
  • Enjoy games e.g peek-a-boo
  • Understand more than they can say
  • Begin to respond to simple instructions e.g ‘come here’, ‘clap your hands’.

Linguistic Stage: 15 Months to 8 Years

Children starts to use words around twelve months and by fifteen months they have developed their own word for an object or person and use it consistently. They then go on to use holophrases– using a single word to express several meanings by changing the sound and using gestures. As they grow children gradually put two words together to form a mini-sentence.

Language and Speech Development Chart: 15 Months to 8 Years

15 Months
    • Have about ten words that their carers can understand
  • Words are used to mean more than one thing depending on the intonation the baby uses
  • Pointing is accompanied by a single word.

18 Months
    • Two words are put together e.g. ‘bye bye dog’
  • Telegraphic speech appears, with children using key words in a grammatical way e.g. ‘dada come’
  • Vocabulary increases with children learning 10-30 words in a month
  • Repeat words and sentences
  • Use language to name belongings and point out named objects.

2 Years
    • Quickly learns new words
  • Use plurals e.g. ‘dogs’
  • Makes errors e.g. ‘drawed’, ‘sheeps’
  • Starts to use nagatives e.g. ‘there no cats’
  • Both active and passive vocabularies continue to increase
  • Sentences become longer although they tend to be in telegraphic speech
  • Questions are asked frequently, What? And Why?

3 Years
    • Speech is understood by strangers
  • Sentences contain four or more words
  • Imitates adult speech patterns accurately
  • Knows and understands nursery rhymes
  • Enjoys asking questions
  • Talk to themselves during play
  • Pronouns are usually used correctly
  • Rhymes and melody are attractive.

4 Years
    • Vocabulary is now extensive
  • Longer and more complex sentences are used
  • Are able to narrate long stories including sequence of events
  • Play involves running commentaries
  • Can use language to share, take turns, argue, collaborate etc.
  • Begin to describe how other people feel
  • Questioning is at its peak
  • Speech is fully intelligible with few, minor incorrect uses.

5 Years
    • Sentences are usually correctly structured although incorrect grammar may still be used
  • Pronunciation may still be childish
  • Have a wide vocabulary and can use it appropriately
  • Vocabulary can include shapes, colours, numbers etc.
  • Questions become more precise
  • Offer opinions in discussion.

6 Years
    • Understands 13,000 words
  • Understands opposites
  • Classifies according to form, colour and use
  • Uses all pronouns correctly.

7 Years
    • Understand 20,000-26,000 words
  • Understands time intervals and seasons of the year
  • Is aware of mistakes in other peoples’ speech.

8 Years
    • Form complex and compound sentences much more easily and exhibit few lapses in grammar
  • Carry on meaningful conversations with adult speakers and follow fairly complex instructions with little or no repetition
  • Able to read age appropriate texts with ease and begin to demonstrate competence with writing simple compositions
  • Have acquired various social amenities in common usage, such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and will know when and where to use them.

How to Promote Your Child’s Language and Speech Development
    • Sing nursery rhymes with actions like Incey-wincey-spider, play games like pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo. These connect language to actions and help your child’s understanding and memory.
  • Play games involving ‘more’ or ‘again’ which can help develop attention and support language too.
  • Toys, objects and books that make a noise can be used to encourage your child’s attention and listening skills.
  • Talk about everyday activities e.g. putting away the shopping.  This helps your child to connect language to the world around them.
  • Use objects and gestures to support your child’s understanding of instructions and questions e.g. Point to their coat when saying “Put your coat on please”.
  • Offer your child choices by showing them two objects and labelling them e.g. ‘do you want the teddy or the car?’, ‘do you want milk or juice?’
  • Books are a good way to promote speech development – look at pictures together and describe what they can see.  Don’t be afraid to tell a story more than once, repetition helps your child to understand and remember the language that she hears. ‘Lift-the-flap’ books are also helpful to encourage concentration.
  • Children learn speech sounds gradually – saying the whole word back to your child is the best way to encourage language and speech development rather than correcting them. It is also helpful for your child if they can see your face when you are talking to them – this helps your child to watch and copy the movements that your lips make as you say sounds and words.
  • Often children can be frustrated when adults don’t understand them – this can lead to tantrums. Encouraging your child to use gestures for objects or actions can be useful too. Be patient, wait for them to finish what they are saying or trying to show you.
  • Sometimes children sound as if they are stammering, trying to share all of their ideas before their language skills are ready!  This is perfectly normal – just show you are listening and give your child plenty of time.


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