Step by Step Guide


 Step by Step Guide


 Children learn to talk through their everyday interactions with you and the people around them.

  Knowing the early milestones can help you to keep an eye on your child’s progress and make sure they’re on track.

  Follow our step by step guide below to see if your child is on track with their development.


There is a wide variation in children’s skills in the early years – use this information as a guide and try out our recommendations or seek advice from a Speech & Language Therapist if you are concerned about your child’s talking. 


Step 1 – Check your child’s skills against the milestones below

By 6 Months
Your baby’s learning journey started even before they were born, from the moment they were able to sense movement and hear sound from the world outside. By 6 months, your baby will be making lots of sounds and noises to communicate such as babbling, cooing and crying. Your baby will be expressing both likes and dislikes through body language, movement, noises and facial expression, such as kicking their legs in excitement or smiling back at you when you smile at them. They will deliberately make noises to get your attention, will watch you when you talk to them and will often respond with noises, smiling and laughter when you do it first.

 Check it out! Does your baby….

Watch your face when you talk to them?

Gurlge, coo and make noises to themselves?

Show they enjoy your company by smiling and laughing with you?


By 1 Year
Children usually say their first words around this age, they may also be using gesture and pointing to show you what they want. It’s ok for their talking to be unclear, it can take the first 3-4 years of life to learn the bulk of their speech sounds. Children need to be motivated to communicate, this is why first words can sometimes be things like the family pet or a favourite toy. Children develop their understanding of words first so your child should start to be able to point or reach to things you say (e.g. ‘where’s teddy?’, ‘Give me your cup’ etc.) They are really into sharing things they see with you and will be pointing and showing you things.


 Check it out! Does your baby….

Try to get your attention by using words, gestures or by pointing?

Respond to simple instructions (e.g. reaching their arms to you when you say “up?” or looks to the object when you say “where’s the car?”)?

Take turns with making talking noises?

By 18 Months
  Your child’s single word vocabulary will be expanding and they should be using a number of single words now, usually somewhere around the 20 word mark. They will be understanding more words and starting to follow simple instructions such as ‘brush dolly’ and ‘cuddle teddy’. They will love people games such as peekaboo or action songs such as ‘row you boat’ and might even start to try to copy some actions or words. You may also notice their play is developing and they are pretending to feed teddy or cuddle dolly. 


 Check it out! Does your baby….

 Use words to show interest or point things out to you (e.g. says “dog!” when they spot one in the park)?

Look at objects when you ask them where they are (e.g. ‘where’s dolly?’ or ‘find the car’)?

Make symbolic noises such as “brrrmmm” for a car or “meow” for a cat?

 Engage in pretend play, such as pretending to talk on a phone or drink from a pretend cup?


By 2 Years
Your child should be using over 50 words now and starting to link them together to make short phrases such as “daddy gone”, “more juice” and “teddy gone”. They will be really interested in their world and will soon be asking early questions such as “what’s that?” or “who’s that?”   They will be understanding a lot more, somewhere between 200 to 500 words and starting pretend play with their toys (e.g. feeding teddy, brushing dolly etc).  It’s natural for children to get a little frustrated at this age if they can’t get their message across, it’s not called the ‘terrible twos’ for nothing!

 Check it out! Does your toddler….

 Say lots of single words and starting to join words together (e.g. “more juice” or “daddy car” etc)?

Understand simple instructions (e.g. ‘Cuddle teddy’ or ‘where’s the car?’)?

Enjoy pretend play, inset puzzles and/or shape sorter toys?


By 3 Years
 Your child’s vocabulary will be significantly larger by this age, somewhere in excess of 250 words including early describing words (big/little, colours, wet/dry etc), action words (drinking, crying, jumping) and location words (in, on and under). They will understand simple wh- questions (who, what and where) and longer instructions such as ‘where’s mummy’s car?’ and ‘put your shoes and hat on’. Your child will be starting to put 4-5 words together to say little sentences and may be starting to recognise simple emotions, such as happy, sad and cross.

They will be showing more interest in playing with friends, although they will still be learning to share and taking turns.

 Check it out! Does your child….

 Speak in sentences or 4 or 5 words?

 Understand trickier instructions (such as ‘give teddy the apple’ or ‘where’s the big car?)?

 Show interest in other children or join in with them in play?



By 4 Years
  Your child will be developing more curiosity about their world and asking lots of questions such as “why?” They will be able to link their ideas together using ‘and’ or ‘then’ and able to describe a simple sequence of events. Their talking will be much clearer and they should be able to use most of their speech sounds by now. Some sounds such as ‘r’, ‘sh’, ‘J’ and ‘th’ may still be tricky and that’s ok.

Your child’s play will be much more elaborate, they will enjoy make believe play with their friends and taking on roles such as teacher, mum or doctor. 

 Check it out! Does your child….

 Use longer sentences with words such as ‘and’, ‘because’ and ‘or’?

 Follow more complex instructions containing concepts (e.g. ‘give me the big red button’)?

Give a simple recap of a story they’ve just listened to and answer some simple questions?


Step 2 – Track and monitor your child’s progress


   Track your child’s development so you can see how they are progressing and changing over time. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Use your mobile phone or tablet to video snapshots of your child’s skills
  • Write down lists of words your child understands and can say
  • If your child mispronounces some words, try to write down how they say these words (e.g. says ‘spoon’ as “boon” or says ‘sock’ as “dock”)
  • Check your child’s skills against the ages and stages descriptions we’ve provided above

Remember to date your records so you can look back at a later date and compare with their current skills. Try to give your child a reasonable time to develop new skills, most children developing at the expected rates will show noticeable progress over a 3 month period.


 If your child is a behind with their talking we recommend getting their hearing checked. Even if they passed their neonatal screen, Glue Ear (Otitis Media) is common in babies and toddlers. This is where an infection causes fluid to fill the middle ear which can lead to temporary hearing loss. Long term Glue Ear can sometimes result in delayed speech, language and communication development. Ask your Doctor or Health Visitor to refer you to your local Audiology department. Read more here….


Step 3 – Support your child’s development at home


1. Check out our Advice & Tips pages for your baby, toddler or preschooler

2. Browse our Best Buys for Speech & Language Development here for helpful toys, books and days out

3. Have a go at some of our fun activities  or browse our Learning Zone  to help you understand how communication skills develop



Step 4 – Try Something a little more structured 

If you have tried out our tips and activities and feel you want something more structured to target specific skills, we offer affordable  virtual consultations which include bespoke home therapy plans. We also have downloadable games and resources to support your child’s communication development in a more structured way at home available in our shop. Alternatively, explore your TeleTherapy options. We offer online assessment, therapy sessions and reviews via a video call platform with a Speech & Language Therapist.

For more details visit our Therapy Centre.


Step 5 – Seek specialist support for your child

If you have tried out our tips, activities and virtual consultation options and still have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, it’s really important that you seek specialist support from a qualified Speech and Language Therapist. Whilst we are able to offer assessment and therapy sessions online, some children require face to face specialist assessment and intervention to meet their specific needs. Here are some ways you can find a Speech and Language Therapist in your area:

Contact your local NHS Speech and Language Therapy Service. You can ask your Health Visitor or GP to refer you or there may be drop-in clinics that you can access for advice.

Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice Logo

Alternatively, you may wish to access an Independent Speech and Language Therapist. You can search for a local Therapist via the Association for Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP) website. Supporting Talking provides trusted Independent Speech & Language Therapy services across Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas so get in touch.


 It’s essential that you are accessing support from a credible and qualified Speech and Language Therapist. All Therapists should be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). You can check the register here.