As parents we spend our lives trying to make sure that we offer our children the best opportunities in life. We often obsess about their development and compare our babies with others to make sure everything is on track. One of the biggest indicators about how your baby is doing is the development of their language skills. Lets look at “typical” language development and how you can encourage your child’s speech.
Research has shown that the more attention given by parents to language development in the early days, the better the child will achieve in later literacy and communication skills. So what is normal language development?
- Babies under six months of age communicate primarily by crying, blinking, smiling and facial expressions. Your baby will respond to his name, turn his head to human voices and engage in eye to eye contact. He will vocalize and begin to use intonation in his voices. As he approached the 6 month mark, he starts to learn to take turns and that a conversation is made up of two people ‘talking’ to each other.
- By 12 months your baby will be aware of the social value of speech and the effect he has on you. He will practice using his voice with endless babbling, and may begin to use a few words (or fragments of words) with meaning as he approaches a year of age.
- At 18 Months your baby will have a vocabulary of approximately 20 words, mainly naming of toys and people he knows well, but he will continue to develop his language by repeating words or phrases that you say. He should be able to follow a few simple instructions such as “put it in the box”.
- When your baby reaches 2 years of age his vocabulary has exploded to around 300 words. He will be beginning to put short sentences together, but his fluency is still poor. He can use some prepositions like in, on and under; as well as some pronouns like I, me and you, but he won’t always use them appropriately.
- A 3 year old child can use pronouns correctly and is beginning to experiment with using tenses, but often doesn’t get them right. Around 90% of what your toddler says at this age is correct and intelligible with a vocabulary of around 1000 words, predominantly made up of verbs. He understands and can respond to simple questions as well as reason.
- By 4 years old your child should be able to name and point to all his body parts, animals, colours, simple shapes and familiar objects in books or magazines. He has mastered most vowel sounds as well as p, b, m, w and n. When engaging in play and make believe he often chats endlessly about what he is doing.
- At 5 years old, your child uses descriptive words with ease and should be completely intelligible. He has mastered all the vowels as well as m, p, b, h , w, k g, t, d, n, ng and y. He can put together sentences of up to 9 words and can usually follow a string of 3 commands. He now understands concepts of time, numbers (up to 10, sometimes more), opposites and size. He should know his name, age, address and telephone number.
** Language guides provided above are guidelines only. All children are different and will develop at a different pace – if you are concerned about your child’s language development please talk to your paediatrician or a speech therapist who will guide you accordingly.**