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. They will deliberately make noises to get your attention, will watch you when you talk to them and will often respond with smiling and laughter when you do it first.

By 1 Year
Children usually say their first words around this age. 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.

By 18 Months
  Your child’s single word vocabulary will be expanding and they should be using a number of single words now. They will be starting to understand and 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.


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!

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.



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.


Step 2 – Track and monitor your child’s progress


   Track your child’s development with the Stages of Speech and Language Development from I CAN here


   Check if your child is on track here with the Progress Checker from Talking Point


 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 free Talking 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. Become a member for just £9.99 a month and get unlimited access to:

        Activities & Games

        Booster Plans

    Parent Learning Zone

   Online Community

   Extras & Downloads


Plus much more including Chalk Talks (bite size learning videos), Podcasts and links to other helpful materials, resources and organisations to get the support you need for your child’s talking… Take a look at our membership benefits or join now!


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