Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 1 to 3 Years - Topic Overview

Speech and language development milestones relate to receptive language (the ability to understand words and sounds) and expressive language (the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning).

Most 1-year-olds begin to understand the meanings of words. Their receptive language grows from understanding names of people and objects, to being able to follow simple requests sometime between ages 1 and 2. Expressive language advances from primarily using gestures and babbling at age 1, to using words, simple phrases, and some early sentence structures between ages 2 and 3.

Speech and language milestones
Age Receptive language Expressive language

1-year-olds (12 months to 24 months):

  • Learn that words have meaning.
  • Usually recognize the names of family members and familiar objects.
  • Understand simple statements such as "all gone" and "give me."
  • Between 1 and 2 years, understand simple requests such as "give daddy the ball."
  • By 18 months, know the names of people, body parts, and objects.
  • Use gestures, such as pointing.
  • Babble less than babies do.
  • Often make one- or two-syllable sounds that stand for items they want, such as "baba" for "bottle," and point to things they want.
  • Between 12 months and 18 months of age, may use their own language, sometimes called jargon, that is a mix of made-up words and understandable words.
  • Between 1 and 2 years, usually can say between 20 and 50 words that are intelligible to family members.

2-year-olds (24 months to 36 months):

  • Know the name of at least seven body parts.
  • Increase their understanding of object names.
  • Follow simple requests (such as "put the book on the table").
  • When asked, point to a picture of something named (such as "Where is the cow?" or "Show me the airplane.")
  • Continue to learn and use gestures.
  • Sometimes talk a lot, although some are quiet.
  • If quiet, develop a communication system using gestures and facial expressions; are likely to develop normal language skills.1
  • Usually can name some body parts (such as arms and legs), favorite toys, and familiar objects (such as cats and dogs).
  • Use pronouns like "me" and "you," but they often get them mixed up.
  • Can make phrases, such as "no bottle" or "want cookie."
  • By age 3, usually can say between 150 to 200 words. Strangers can understand them about 75% of the time.2

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: December 21, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 1 to 3 Years Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Slideshow
    Young woman holding lip at dentists office
    Video
     
    Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    tissue box
    Quiz
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow