Speech Development


Aaaaah, baby’s first words…music to any parent’s ears. When can you expect to hear your baby’s first words, and what can you do to help with your child’s language development?

In the first 2 months, babies are best calmed by a soft, rhythmic voice. They startle to loud sounds. They can’t focus very far, so bring your face close to theirs to talk and sing. Soon they’ll start to make eye contact and smile at you.

By 3-4 months, they’re gurgling and cooing, and can begin to take turns when you talk with them. They will recognize your voice and quiet down if they’re crying.

At 6 months, your baby begins babbling with many different sounds, including p, b, and m. They respond to changes in the tone of your voice, and they pay attention to music. They’ll enjoy games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.

Around 12 months, your baby is pointing and can say 1 or 2 words like “mama”, “dada”, or “baba” for bottle. They can express a complete thought with one sound – like “da” for “I want that”. They love to make you laugh.

At 18 months, your baby can point to a few body parts when asked. They can follow simple commands, like “kiss the baby”. They now have several single words.

At 2 years, they may have 100 single words, and they’re starting to put words together, like “more cookie”, or “mama book”. They can follow simple directions, like “get your shoes”. They love to listen to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.

Between 2-3 years, your child uses 2-3 word combinations to talk about and ask for things. They can follow two-step requests, like “get the book and put it on the table”.

Between 3-4 years, your child talks about activities at school or at friends’ homes. People outside the family can usually understand their speech. They use sentences with 4 or more words, and can answer simple “who”, “what”, “where”, “why” questions.

At 4-5 years of age, your child uses sentences with lots of details, like “I like to read my books”. They can tell stories that stick to a topic, and can communicate easily with other children and adults. Read stories together, and ask simple questions about it.

Children benefit from seeing other children at playgroups or the Early Years Centre near you.

Keep in mind that children develop language at different rates, there is a range of what is considered normal language development. Furthermore, language is not necessarily an indicator of intelligence.

Studies have shown that reading to young children helps with language and literacy. It’s never too early to start. Try storytime as part of your bedtime routine, that way you know you’re getting it in daily.

If you have concerns related to your child’s language development, consult your doctor.


Angela Mitrovic PT, Physiotherapist, and Myra Del Rosario OT Reg. (Ont.), Occupational Therapist

Credit Valley Hospital