Early Speech and Language Norms

Birth to 12 months 
1 – 2 years of age
2 – 3 years of age
3 – 4 years of age
4 – 5 years of age

From birth to 12 months, you should be noticing your little baby:

  • Listening to speech and sounds around them
  • Startling or becoming still to loud or unexpected noises
  • Turning to you when you speak
  • Smiling at the sound of your voice
  • Making different cries for different situations
  • Responding to different tones of your voice
  • Responding to sounds through toys and objects, song and games
  • Make gurgling sounds or ‘playing’ with their voice
  • Cooing and babbling
  • Swiping at objects and repeating actions
  • Responding to her name
  • Recognising familiar people
  • Starting to point and gesture
  • Participating in songs and games such as peek a boo
  • Recognising the names of familiar objects
  • Babbling changes to more specific sounds with consonants and vowels
  • Looking at and mouthing objects
  • Searching for partly hidden objects
  • Starting to respond to requests (give it to me) and questions (more water?)
  • Banging two objects together
  • Throwing or drops toys purposefully
  • Using their first words
  • Referencing between objects and adults

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Between 1-2 years of age, you should be noticing your little toddler:

  • Pointing to pictures in books
  • Understanding yes and no
  • Saying yes and no with words or gestures
  • Showing you a few body parts when asked
  • Recognising self in a mirror
  • Following simple commands (Bang the hammer! Give me the block)
  • Understanding simple questions (Where’s the ball? What’s in the bag?)
  • Searching for hidden toys
  • Combining two words (More bubbles)
  • Exploring toys – mouthing, shaking, banging
  • Listening to short stories
  • Enjoying songs and rhymes – and likes them repeated!
  • Noticing sounds that belong to familiar items (phone ringing, microwave beeping
  • Using words that are becoming clearer
  • Starting to take turns

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At 2-3 years of age your child should:

  • Have quite a big vocabulary
  • Start to understand and follow 2 or more directions (Get your shoe and give it to me)
  • Play with other children
  • Ask you to name items for them
  • Enjoy building towers and playing with trains
  • Use symbolic and imaginative play (a block as a car)
  • Comment using social words (Wow!)
  • Understand and use specific concepts (Stop/go, hot/cold, in/out, open/close)
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Take turns in speaking with others
  • Imitate words, rhythms and movements
  • Identify girls and boys
  • Use 2 or 3 words
  • Refer to self by name and say ‘mine’
  • Like books and songs

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At 3-4 years of age your child should:

  • Enjoy playing with other children
  • Understand simple “wh” questions (Who, what, where)
  • Respond to you calling from another room
  • Use sentences of 4 or more words
  • Be interested in talking about outings
  • Understand higher level concepts (opposites, positional words – first, end)
  • Be aware of others’ body language
  • Use eye contact when talking to others
  • Start to understand empathy

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At 4-5 years of age your child should:

  • Enjoy stories and answer questions about the story
  • Understand most things that are said or asked of them
  • Construct long and detailed sentences
  • Tell imaginative stories
  • Experiment with words
  • Produce mostly intelligible speech
  • Engage you and others in conversation
  • Notice and respond to non-verbal aspects of communication (body language, mood)
  • Be able to know how to behave in particular situations (formal vs informal)
  • Follow simple rules
  • Like helping others
  • Recount recent stories
  • Match and name some colours

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Areas of focus



What to expect