Babies’ first words are music to parents’ ears. But how can you tell if a child’s speech and language skills are on track?
Children learn to speak at their own pace. But markers, known as milestones, can be a guide to a child’s ability to speak. These milestones help healthcare providers know when a child might need extra help.
At the end of the 3 months
By the end of three months, your child might:
- Smile when you show up.
- Make cool sounds.
- Shuts up or smiles when spoken to.
- He seems to know your voice.
- Have different cries for different needs.
At the end of 6 months
By the end of six months, your child might:
- Makes gurgling sounds when playing.
- Babbles and makes a variety of sounds.
- Use your voice to show likes and dislikes.
- Move the eyes towards the sounds.
- Sensitive to changes in the tone of your voice.
- Notice that some toys make sounds.
- Look at the music.
At the end of 12 months
By the end of 12 months, your child might:
- Try to copy the sounds of speech.
- Say a few words, like “dad,” “mama,” and “uh-oh.”
- Understand simple commands, such as “Come here.”
- Learn words for common items, like “shoe.”
- Turn and look towards the sounds.
At the end of the 18 months
By the end of 18 months, your child might:
- Know names of people, objects and parts of the body.
- Follow simple commands given with gestures.
- Say up to 10 words.
At the end of 24 months
By the end of 24 months, your child might:
- Use simple phrases, like “more milk.”
- Ask one or two word questions, such as “Bye?”
- Follow simple commands and understand simple questions.
- Speaks 50 or more words.
- Speak well enough that you or another caregiver can understand at least half the time.
When to see your child’s health care provider
Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you are concerned that your child has a speech delay. Speech delays occur for many reasons. These include hearing loss and other developmental problems. Your child’s care provider may refer you to a hearing specialist, known as an audiologist, or to a speech and language specialist, known as a speech-language pathologist.
If your child hears or speaks two languages, a bilingual speech-language pathologist can test your child in both languages.
To help your child talk, talk to your child. Talk about what you are doing and where you are going. Sing songs, read stories, and count together. Teach your child to imitate actions, like clapping hands, and to make animal sounds.
Show that you are happy when your child talks. Repeat the sounds your child makes. A little “baby talk” is fine. But keep in mind that your child learns to speak by copying you.
Children’s health information and parenting tips delivered to your inbox.
Sign up to receive trusted health content from Mayo Clinic in your email. Receive additional guidance on ways to monitor your child’s health just for subscribing. Click here for an email preview.
In order to provide you with the most relevant and useful information, and to understand what information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a patient of Mayo Clinic, this may include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all such information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt out of email communications at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the email.
Thanks for subscribing
Our electronic newsletter will keep you up to date on the latest health information.
Something went wrong with your subscription.
Please try again in a couple of minutes.
March 11, 2023
- Kliegman RM, et al. Disorders of language development and communication. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. edition 21. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed February 9, 2023.
- Birth to One Year: What Should My Child Be Able to Do? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/01/. Accessed February 9, 2023.
- Kliegman RM, et al. The second year. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. edition 21. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed February 9, 2023.
- One to two years: What should my child be able to do? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/12/. Accessed February 9, 2023.
- Milestones of speech and language development. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/speech-and-language. Accessed February 9, 2023.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. February 22, 2019.
See more In depth