Ages & Stages

 Ages & Stages of Development 


 Children learn to talk through their everyday interactions at home, in their education setting and from others in their environment.

  Knowing the early milestones is key to identifying children with speech, language and communication needs. 

  Take a look at the ages and stages below and the ‘check it out’ section to see if the children in your setting are 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 Tracker Tool or seek advice from a Speech & Language Therapist if you are concerned about a child’s talking. 


By 6 Months
A 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, babies will be making lots of sounds and noises to communicate such as babbling, cooing and crying. A baby this age 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 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 children around this age should be able to look, 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 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
 A 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 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
A child should be using over 50 words now and starting to link them together to make short phrases such as “bye mummy”, “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 engaging short sequences of 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 the toddler….

 Say lots of single words and starting to join words together (e.g. “more juice” or “daddy gone” 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
A 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 the 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
  A 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.

Children’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 the 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?


  Tracking children’s development can help you can see how they are progressing and changing over time.

Download our Tracker Tool

For more detailed information at each age and stage in a checklist format with a summary view, this is a handy tool for your setting:

Download Now