Speech Pathology Milestones
Our Speech Pathologists explain all about milestones and the ways in which you can help your child’s language development.

Children develop talking, listening and communication skills right from birth. A child’s language skills continue to grow throughout their lives; however, the early years are very important.

It is important to remember that children develop individually but there is a general pattern to language development:

By the age of 1 a child should be able to understand simple commands (e.g. ‘no’) and familiar words, recognise their name and begin to say a few words (e.g. ‘mama’, ‘dad’).

By the age of 2 a child should be able to understand simple sentences and questions, have a vocabulary of about 50 words and begin to use 2-word phrases (e.g. ‘all gone’).

By the age of 3 a child should be able to follow directions, ask questions and use 3-4-word phrases.

By the age of 4 a child should be able to understand colours, have a vocabulary of about 900 words, use 4-5-word sentences and ask a range of ‘Wh’ questions.

By the age of 5 a child should be able to understand opposites, use sentences with at least 6 words, explain why, follow simple 3-part directions and retell events.


How to help children learn language

Speech Pathology Milestones


Talk about what your child is doing, talk about what you are doing, and simplify your language so that they can understand you (e.g. “Pick up the spoon, let’s wash the spoon, now put it in the drawer”)

Use visual cues (e.g. Gestures with your words, facial expressions, tone of voice)

Remember: You are commenting, not asking questions



Expand your child’s language by adding one or two extra words (e.g. If your child uses 1 word, then add another word to make it a 2-word phrase. If your child uses gesture, then give them the words for the gesture).

E.g. Child says “Car”, you say “The car is moving”

E.g. Child says “There” (pointing to a ball), you say “There is a ball”

Remember: This technique does not require your child to talk, do not expect your child to copy you



Take what your child has said and ADD extra information or a new idea.

E.g. Child says “Dog barking”,  you say “Yes. The dog is barking. He wants a drink. The dog is thirsty”.

E.g. Child says “Ball gone”, you say “The ball is gone. The ball rolled away”


Other things to remember

Speak slowly and clearly to your child

Use short sentences and always use the correct grammar (e.g. “(Child’s name)’s turn to drink”)

Create opportunities for your child to communicate (e.g. play games where your child needs to ask for more, such as ‘bubbles’)


When to seek help from a Speech Pathologist

If you feel that your child’s language is different compared to children of a similar age or if the preschool teacher has concerns, you may need to see a Speech Pathologist. Your GP (doctor), Paediatrician or child health nurse may be able to provide you with contact details. A Speech Pathologist can also provide you with further information on normal language development.


Further reading

Speech Pathology Australia’s information on Communication Milestones 

Hanen Centre’s information on Strategies to Support a Child’s Language Development

Raising Children – The Australian Parenting Website’s information on Child Development and Language Stimulation