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Speech & Language Milestones for Children Below 6 Years: What to Expect

Speech & Language Milestones for Children Below 6 Years: What to Expect

Bamidele Wale-Oshinowo

A typical child should be able to produce long and complex sentences, speak clearly, intelligently and will understand a vocabulary of tens of thousands of words by age four (4). However, some do not develop the appropriate speech and/or language skills that are expected for their age. This condition is commonly referred to as delayed speech and/or language problem. Although some children may grow out of this worrisome condition, its persistence in others could be a huge cause of concern for parents, guardians and/or caregivers of preschool age children.

Knowing what’s normal and what’s not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned about your preschooler as you eagerly await their first words.

READ ALSO: 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Reach Their Movement Milestones

Speech Milestones:

Birth: Cries (the baby must cry)

1 –3 months: Cries differently in different circumstances, turns to sounds, startled by loud sounds, coos in response to you.

3 –4 months: Cooing and babbling sounds.

5 –6 months: Babbles rhythmically, copies smiles and laughs distinctively, makes different sounds for different needs.

6 –11 months: Babbles in imitation of real speech, starts initially with‘da’, ‘ba’, then combining syllables towards 7-8months such as ‘da-da’, ‘ba-ba’, makes speeches with expression.

12 months: Says one-two words clearly, such as ‘mama’, ‘dada’, recognises names, imitate familiar sounds, understands simple instructions.

12 –18 months: Says five-twenty words, including names, (please note that some of these words may not necessarily be understood by adults), engage in pretend play, an example is pretending to talk on the phone.

18 –24 months: Vocabulary is growing (about fifty or more single words), says two-word phrases, speech is clearer now and can be understood by strangers, uses words like ‘more’to make his wants known to people around him, understands ‘no’, waves goodbye, makes ‘sounds’ of familiar animals.

2 –3 years: Vocabulary should be around four hundred to four hundred and fifty words or more (including names), can say three-five word sentences, combines nouns and verbs, start using pronouns, beginning to use plurals and past tense, talks incessantly, matches 3-4 colours, calls self ‘me’instead of name, knows big and little, likes to hear the same story repeated, identifies body parts and objects in a picture.

3 –4 years: Vocabulary of about one thousand words, can tell a story, could use three to six words in a sentence, asks and answers questions, relates experiences, almost all speech can be understood by strangers; knows last name, name of street and several nursery rhymes, could experience some errors in tenses (this is normal).

4 –5 years: Vocabulary of about one thousand five hundred words, could use sentences with four to five words, uses past tenses, identifies colours, shapes, asks many questions like ‘why?’and ‘who?’, can count to ten.

5 –6 years: Vocabulary of about two thousand words, sentence length of five to six words, can tell you what objects are made of, knows spatial relations (like ‘on top’and ‘far’), knows address, understands same and different, identifies a money, can count to twenty effortlessly, knows right and left hand, uses all types of sentences.

READ ALSO: Hearing Milestones: Check These Signs That Your Baby Has No Hearing Problems

Warning Signs:

  • By 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye.
  • By 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate, has trouble imitating sounds .
  • By 24 months: has difficulty understanding simple verbal requests.

You need to seek an evaluation if a child over 2 years old:

  • can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously.
  • says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs.
  • can’t follow simple directions.
  • has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding) which is more difficult to understand than expected for his or her age. Parents and regular caregivers should understand about half of a child’s speech at 2 years and about three quarters at 3 years. By 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know them.

It is however important to clarify that a lot of variation in speech and language development could be related to the child’s genes (maybe either of his parents was a late bloomer) and gender –girls tend to develop faster than boys.

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