Developmental Milestones

By 9 to 12 months of age

Receptive Language

  • Responds when you call their name
  • Respond when you say "no"
  • Turn their head and look for a sound when they can't see what is making it (e.g. a noise coming from inside the cupboard or something behind them)
  • Anticipate what will happen next (e.g. giggle before you take your hands away in a game of peek-a-boo)
  • Look at objects or people when attention is given to them (e.g. pointing to a picture/person or an object such as a plane up in the sky
  • Take your hand when you hold it out and say "let's go!"
  • Understand common phrases/sayings used in the family

Expressive Language

  • Respond to someone by smiling or shying away
  • Use gestures, such as pointing, pulling or poking things to communicate what they want or need
  • Copy actions and sounds (e.g. clapping hands)
  • Vocalises some vowel like sounds (e.g. ee, oo)
  • Vocalise one or two consonant sounds (e.g. m, d, p)
  • Combine sounds to form a syllable (e.g. da, pa)
  • Seek attention from others around them
  • Play simple turn-taking games like peek-a-boo

By 12mths to 24mths

Receptive Language

  • Identifies common objects and pictures (e.g. points to common pictures in books or picks them up from a group of obects on the floor)
  • Identifies common body parts
  • Responds to "NO", "wait", "stop" (even if only briefly!)
  • Understands common simple directions which involve words such as:
    • Give it to me
    • Show it to me
    • Point to it
    • Where is it?
    • Put it down
    • Pick it up
  • Understand simple "whats that?" questions
  • Play with toys and use objects appropriately in play

Expressive language

  • Copies and imitates a lot of actions (like jumping, hand actions in nursery rhymes)
  • Copies and imitates lots of common words
  • Holds out toys or other objects to show people
  • Uses vocalizations to ask for things
  • Babble short strings which sounds almost like real words and sentences
  • Uses 50-200 words by 2 years
  • Combining 2 or more words together (e.g. "more ball", "no mum", "give me", "put down truck")
  • Label photos of objects
  • By 2yrs of age using words more often then gestures
  • Non-family members can understand 50-75% of the childs speech by 2yrs of age

By 2yrs to 3yrs

Receptive language

  • Understand describing words
    • Open/close (car doors, doors, cupboards and toys)
    • Wet/dry
    • Big/little
    • Same/different
  • Understand place words
    • In/out
    • On/off
    • Up/down
    • Under/over
    • Top/bottom
  • Understand quantity words
    • More/gone
    • One/lots
    • Empty/full
  • Understand "wh" questions
    • Whats this?
    • Yes/no questions (e.g. "Is this your drink?")
    • What is the boy/girl doing?
  • Understand the function of an object (e.g. "What do we do with a spoon?")
  • Have a large noun and verb vocabulary where they can point to a range of pictures
  • Understand gender (e.g. "Is this a boy or a girl?")

Expressive Language

  • Asks lots of questions (e.g. "What is that?", "Where is it?")
  • Label a large range of pictures and actions
  • Combines 2-4 word sentneces often when talking
  • Answer simple "What's this?", "What is the boy doing?" and "Where is it?" questions
  • Answer "yes" and "no" questions
  • Uses "-ing" at the end of action words where appropriate (e.g. running)
  • Uses little words like "the", "a"
  • People other than family members can understand 75-100% of the child's speech by 3yrs of age

By 3yrs to 3.5yrs

Receptive Language

  • Understand describing words (hard/soft)
  • Understand quantity words such as (one/some/all)
  • Understand questions such as, "who is that?", "who is jumping/running/eating?"
  • Understand "where" questions (e.g. "Where is the ball?")
  • Identifies 2-3 colours. Can point to 2-3 different colours when a selection of different coloured balls are placed in front of them
  • Understand negatives (e.g. "Point to the box with no toys")

Expressive Language

  • Uses 3-5 word sentences (e.g. "the boy is jumping")
  • Uses 800 words
  • Can answer simple questions (e.g. "who is that?")

By 3.5yrs to 4yrs

Receptive Language

  • Understand describing words (e.g. "tall/short", "long/short")
  • Understand place words such as "front/back", "next to", "inside/outside"
  • Beginning to understand "why?" questions

Expressive Language

  • Uses 1000-1500 words
  • Uses little words "is/are" and "he/she", "I", "me", "mine" correctly
  • Beginning to respond correctly to "why?" questions (e.g. "Why do you brush your teeth?")
  • Uses joining words such as "because", "then", "and" (e.g. "The boy is big and mean!")
  • Can tell a story of 2 events in sequence (e.g. "I went to the shops then to McDonalds")
  • Begins to use language for jokes and teasing
  • Might correct others
  • Asks a lot of "how", "why" and "when" questions and expects detailed answers
  • Becoming very intelligble to others in conversation

By 4yrs to 5yrs

Receptive Language

  • Comprehend between 2000-2800 words
  • Understand place words (e.g. "between", "above/below", "middle", "first/next/last")
  • Beginning to understand comparatives (e.g. "this one is big, and this one is bigger")
  • Understand difference between day and night
  • Beginning to understand "when" questions

Expressive Language

  • Uses 1500-2000 words
  • Uses joining words such as "if", "so", "but"
  • Uses possessive pronous such as "his", "her"
  • Use words such as "could" and "would"
  • Combines five to eight words in a sentence
  • Repeats days of the week in sequence
  • Identify the odd one out from a group of three items
  • Tells a long story in sequence, but may not stick to the same idea throughout the story

By 5yrs to 6yrs

Receptive Language

  • Understand time concepts such as "morning/afternoon", "yesterday/tomorrow", "before/after", "now/later"
  • Understands and responds to "when" questions
  • By 6yrs of age knows "right" from "left"

Expressive Language

  • Using all pronouns correctly ("he/she", "his/her", "himself/herself", "me", "mine", "I" etc)
  • Names days of the week in order
  • Tells a long story maintaining theme and sequence
  • Grammar is mostly correct
  • By 6yrs of age able to identify and label a number of alphabet letters
  • Can Identify similarities and differences in objects

If you have concerns for your child's communication skills, contact Chatterbox Speech Pathology to book an assessment.

  • In Penrith (02) 4731 2432
  • In Narellan (02) 4647 6777


Gard, A. Gilman, L. Gorman, J. (1993). Speech and Language Development Chart (2nd ed.). Austin, Texas: Pro-ed

Owens, R.E. (2001) Language Development: An Introduction (5th Ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Paul, R. (2001). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention(2nd Ed.). St Louis, Missouri: Mosby, Inc.

Reynell, J. & Gruber, C. (1990). Reynell Development Language Scales. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Zimmeramn, I.L. Steiner, V.G. & Pond, R.E. (2002). Preschool Language Scale - Fourth Edition - Australian Language Adaptation (PLS-4). San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.