Communication Milestones for kids from twelve months to five years

At 12 months, children can usually:

  • Approximately 10 words
  • Respond to their name
  • Recognise greetings
  • Recognise some familiar people and objects
  • Make eye contact
  • Start to use sounds, gestures and a few words
  • Babble
  • Copy sounds or noises

At 18 months, children can usually:

  • Up to 50 words and familiar short phrases
  • Follow simple instructions
  • Point to familiar objects when instructed
  • Recognise some familiar people and objects
  • Point to familiar pictures in books
  • 6 to 20 single words
  • Copy lots of words and noises
  • Name some body parts
  • Engage in pretend play with toys (e.g. stirring an empty cup with a spoon)

At 2 years, children can usually

  • Simple 2 step instructions (e.g. “give me the shoe and the car”)
  • Respond to simple “what” and “where” questions
  • Identify several body parts on self and in pictures
  • Understand simple location terms (e.g. “in”, “on”)
  • 50 to 200 single words
  • Produce 2-word utterances (e.g. “no more”, “mummy up”)
  • Ask simple questions
  • Say “no”
  • Use most vowel sounds and a range of early developing consonants
  • Refer to self by their name
  • Start using early pronouns “mine” and “my”

At 3 years, children can usually:

  • More complex 2 step instructions (e.g. “give me the ball and get your shoes”)
  • Understand more wh-questions (“what”, “where”, “who”)
  • Understand “same” and “different” concepts
  • Understand different categories of items (e.g. animals vs. food)
  • Recognise basic colours
  • 4 to 5 word sentences
  • Use a variety of words in their vocabulary
  • Ask questions using “what”, “where”, “who”, “why”
  • Talk about past events in past tense
  • Engage in a conversation with some turn taking

At 4 years, children can usually:

  • Most contextual questions
  • Wh-questions about a story
  • The concept of numbers
  • Show awareness of the sounds that are in words
  • Longer sentences with connecting words such as “and”, “but” and “because”
  • Explain recent past events in more detail
  • Ask many questions
  • Use more pronouns (e.g. “he”, “she”, “you”, “they”), and negations (e.g. “don’t”, “can’t”)
  • Count to 5 and name more colours

At 5 years, children can usually:

  • Multi-step instructions of 3 parts (e.g. “put your shoes on, get your bag and stand at the door”)
  • Have an awareness of temporal concepts (e.g. “before”, “after”, “soon”, “later”)
  • Show interest in the meaning of new words
  • Recognise some letters, sounds and numbers
  • Longer and more complex sentences with mostly appropriate grammar and word order.
  • Other listeners understand all of what they are saying
  • Take turns in longer periods of conversation
  • Tell short narratives with a basic structure (beginning, middle, end)
  • Use verb tenses correctly (“walked”, “went”, “will eat”)

Typical Speech Sound Development

Age children learn to produce English speech soundsSpeech sounds
2 to 3 yearsp, b, m, d, n, h, t, k, g, w, ng, f, y
4 yearsl, j, ch, s, v, sh, z
5 yearsr, zh, th (voiced)
6 yearsth (voiceless)


Speech Pathology Australia. (2022). Communication Milestones. Retrieved from on 26/07/2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2022). Milestones. Retrieved from on 26/07/2022.

McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2018_AJSLP-17-0100. Available from:

Bowen, C. (1998). Ages and Stages Summary: Language Development 0-5 years. Retrieved from on 26/07/2022