Speech and Language Milestones: Relating to the World


Rachel Morris, OTR/L, Director of Therapy

Speech and language skills are key components needed for self-expression, understanding, building relationships, and lifelong learning. These skills tend to be sequential, developing in a particular order that build on each other. This sequence of development is known as milestones.

What are Developmental Milestones?

Milestone skills develop rapidly over the first few years of life and extend into early adulthood. Starting with crying and babbling, an infant learns how to express themselves and interact with those around them. As a toddler, a child learns to express their wants, needs, and share their interests verbally and through gestures. As the child gets older, vocabulary expands to allow for an understanding of more complex and abstract concepts about the world around them.

Typically, children develop milestones around the same ages. Monitoring milestones can give insight into your child’s skill level and may help to identify any potential concerns. However, please note, each child is unique and may progress at a different rate or even skip a milestone all together.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, visit our therapy services page or contact us to determine if your child might benefit from therapy. 

Below is a list of some of the milestones typically reached at different ages. Note the speech sounds listed are based on the English language. Children who are learning to speak other languages may develop some sounds earlier or later.

Milestones by Age

3 Months

  • Makes cooing and gurgling sounds; begin to babble

  • Responds to and turns head toward sounds

  • Smiles at people

6 Months

  • Makes babbling speech-like sounds like puh, ba, mi, da, ah, eh, oh

  • Takes turns making sounds when “talking” with people

  • Responds to name

9 Months

  • Makes a lot of different sounds like mamama, babababa, dadadada

  • Uses fingers to point at things

  • Understands “No”

12 Months

  • Response to simple requests with gestures like “give me” with the adult’s hand held out

  • Imitate gestures like waving bye, shaking head, or clapping

  • Starts to say a few simple words like “mama”, “dada”, and “uh-oh!” and tries to imitate words

  • Looks at the correct picture when an object is named

18 Months

  • Says several words

  • Says and gestures “No”

  • Follows a few simple request without gestures being used like “sit down”

  • Knows what common objects are used for (ex- talking on phone or using brush on hair)

2 Years

  • Uses many single words and puts two words together into a phrase or question

  • Follows 2 step, simple directions like “pick up the toy and put it in the box”

  • Plays simple pretend games like feeding a baby

  • Says p, b, m, h, and w the right way in words most of the time

3 Years

  • Speech is understood by people familiar with the child as well as some

  • Uses sentences with five to six words and carries on a conversation with 2-3 sentences

  • Says m, n, h, w, p, b, t, d, k, g, and f in words correctly

  • Plays and talks with other children

4 Years

  • Says v and y in words.  May make mistakes with s, sh, ch, j, ng, th, z, l, and r sounds

  • Knows basic rules of grammar.  Uses “he” and “she” correctly

  • Tells stories, sings songs, and asks questions

  • Shows concern for friends and takes turns when playing a games

  • Understood by strangers most of the time when speaking

5 Years

  • Uses future tense (“Mom will be back soon”)

  • Tells what he/she thinks will happen next in a book

  • Prefers to play with other kids and is imaginative in play

  • Speaks very clearly

  • Knows name and address

Enablr Therapy providers are knowledgeable and gifted at working with kids of all ages and abilities. We provide in-person therapy services in the Nashville Metro area and live video therapy sessions for clients throughout the states of Tennessee. To learn more about how Enablr Therapy works with kids, visit our therapy services page.

These milestones were developed with use of the references below and also based on the clinical knowledge.


American Academy of Pediatrics (n.d.) Ages and Stages. Retrieved from https://healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/pages/default.aspx

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Speech Sound Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Speech-Sound-Disorders/

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Early Identification of Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders.  Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/early-identification-of-speech-language-and-hearing-disorders/

Center for Disease Control (n.d.). Milestone Checklist. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/checklists/Checklists-with-Tips_Reader_508.pdf

Contact us to learn more or browse our roster of therapists to book directly!

About Enablr Therapy
Enablr Therapy offers speech, occupational, and physical therapy to people of all ages and abilities through our school-based therapy services as well as cash-based services for individual clients. Individual clients can be seen through convenient online sessions in many states across the country.