As children grow and develop physically, their brain is also growing and developing rapidly, particularly in the area of language. The more children are exposed to speech and language as well as other sights and sounds, the greater their language development. It is exciting when your child begins talking, though many parents wonder if their child is reaching developmental language milestones at the appropriate time. The truth is every child is unique and special, developing at his or her own pace. Even so, there are common developmental speech milestones that come during the first four years. Here are the milestones to look for as your child grows.
Your One Year Old
Most one-year olds have begun to speak a few words. “Mama” and “Dada” often come first, and in most cases your little one means what he or she says. You can encourage language development at this age by reading to your child every day and talking to him or her. You’ll often see you child trying to imitate your voice and facial expressions. You also want to watch for your child responding to your voice, such following directions or turning his or her head toward your voice.
This is the time when language development truly begins. At two, your little one should have a vocabulary of at least 50 words. You will also notice that your little one will begin to string words together, like “my toy” or “big dog.” In addition, your little one will likely be asking questions like “Go night-night?” Though your two-year-old’s pronunciation may not be clear yet, they will be able to point to items and name them easily. Your little one will also begin trying to use pronouns, even if he or she is not using them correctly just yet.
As a growing preschooler, your three-year old’s vocabulary will be exploding at this point. He or she can create complete, yet simple sentences and most of what is spoken is easily understandable. At this point, you should be able to hold a conversation with your little one. Asking for items by pointing will go by the wayside, as asking for items verbally takes over. At three, your child will also be able to grasp the meaning of more complicated requests and follow through. In situations that are new, you will still need to be able to provide the context for your child to gain understanding.
At age four, your child is growing fast and his or her vocabulary and language skills are growing faster. As a “big boy” or “big girl” your four-year-old can speak in more complex sentences and is easily understandable even for strangers. He or she should be able to tell you a complete story about what happened during his or her day at preschool or at grandma’s house. On top of that, your child can now name some of the colors, letters, numbers, and shapes, if not all. You can encourage learning by taking impromptu moments to teach something new about words, letters, numbers, etc. For your four-year-old, concepts of time like morning, afternoon, night should start to make sense even though he or she has not learned to tell time. Finally, at age four, your child should be able to follow complicated requests with multiple steps and communicate wants and needs to you in the same way.
You can encourage your little one along the way in the development of language skills in simple ways, like expanding their two-word sentences into full sentences while you play. Another easy way to enhance language development is by asking questions about books, animals, or events in his or her day. Talk about things you have done together, about family members, and teach your little one words that express emotions. And most of all, enjoy the time you have together as your child grows and learns from you.