Language milestones ages 1-3 

language milestones infographic

Your toddler understands much more than he* can say. Talk to him in simple, easy sentences to help him learn the names of things and how to form sentences.

1-2 year milestones

• uses “Mama” and “Dada” correctly

• loves simple stories, songs, and rhymes

• communicates by pointing to objects when he wants them or when you name them, including a few body parts

• talks to himself while playing

• says new words on a regular basis

• follows simple commands like “get the ball”

• understands simple questions like “where’s your book?”

• uses 1- or 2-word phrases like “all gone,” “where’s kitty?” or “more water”

• about 25% to 50% of what he says is understandable

• uses 20 words by 18 months, including “hi,” “bye,” “yes,” and “no”

• says 50 words by 2 years old

 2-3 year milestones

• uses 3- and 4-word sentences and phrases 

• asks and answers simple “what…” “where…” questions

• has a word for almost everything he knows

• family and friends can understand him

• asks for objects by name

• uses the pronouns me, you, he and she

• refers to himself by his name and understands “mine”

• plays make-believe and talks to himself and his toys while playing

• uses some plurals, like “books,” “cups,” and “dolls”

• holds up his fingers to tell his age

• vocabulary soars to about 500 words by 3 years old


How you can help

• Use clear, simple speech that is easy for your child to mimic.

• Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes.

• Repeat and expand on what your child says. If he says, “Want juice.” Reply, “Do you want juice? I have apple juice. Do you want apple juice in your cup?”

• Play with silly questions and make-believe.

• Give your child choices that help him learn and understand words. For example, “Do you want an apple or a banana?” 

• Introduce new words and what they mean.

• When your child speaks, give him your full attention.

• Take turns talking so he learns how to talk back and forth.

• Look at photographs and tell the story of the picture, or make up a story.

Warning signs of speech delays

• At 15 months, he has not used his first word or does not respond to “no” and “bye-bye.”

• At 18 months, child does not use at least 6 words or does not hear well.

• At 20 months, does not use at least 6 consonant sounds or cannot follow simple directions.

• At 24 months, says less than 50 words or is not interested in social interaction.

• At 36 months, strangers cannot understand what your child says or your child does not use full sentences.

Your child will develop language at his own pace. These are simply guidelines. Help your child learn, and if he does not reach these milestones or shows some of the warning signs, ask your health care provider for advice on what to do.

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