Language Development from Birth to 8 Years

This timeline will identify progression of language development from birth to age eight.  It will highlight the important milestones for the age range.  

Birth to 6 months of age

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-Responds to voices and sounds (responds to loud or surprising sounds as well as familiar sounds)

-Recognizes voices and tones (turns head to voices that are familiar) 

-Localizes to sounds heard

-Cries at different pitches to express different needs (cries at strangers face in a different way ones cries when hungry)

- Smiles (observes caregivers face and imitates same)


-Produces phonemes/p, b, m/ in babbling (begins to play with voice with sounds)

7 to 12 months

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-Listens when spoken to

-Responds to his/ her name

-Understands "no" and common objects (e.g., cup)

-Understands some simple commands

-Uses more complex babbling

-Uses speech intentionally

-Uses more gestures to communicate

-Produces first words

13 to 18 months

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-Points to one to three body parts

-Makes more requests verbally or with hand signals to communicate

-Understands additional simple commands

-Speech is mostly unintelligible to strangers

-Repeats more

-Expressive vocabulary of 5 to 20 words

19 to 24 months

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-Receptive vocabulary of 300 or more words

-Points to pictures in a book

-Understands five body parts and basic categories (e.g., food)

-Expressive vocabulary of 50 -100 words or more

-Names common objects

-Begins to use pronouns (I, me, you ), although still may confuse the use of each

-Begins to use possessives (my, mine)

-Begins to use two and three word in phrases

2 to 3 years old

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-Receptive vocaulary of 500 to 900 words

-Follows 2 step directions

-Requests objects by naming

-Understands "one" and "all"

-Understands and uses at least three prepositions (e.g., in, on, under)

-Speech is 50%-75% intelligible

-Expressive vocabulary of 50 -250 words or more

-Uses 2 to 4 word phrases

-Uses pronouns (I, me, you) correctly

-Begins to use plurals and past tense with irregular and regular verbs

3 to 4 years old

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-Follows 2-3 step directions

-Know names of familiar animals

-Know one or more colors

-Understands opposites (e.g., stop-go)

-Receptive vocabulary of 1,200- 2,000 words or more

-Starts to understand past and present

-Uses regular plurals, possessive and simple past tense verbs consistently

-Produces 4 -5  word sentences

-Uses some regular plurals, contractions, conjunctions, and future tense verbs

-Uses at least 4 prepositions

4 to 5 years old

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-Follows 3 step commands

-Produces 4 -6 word sentences

-Understands more special concepts

-Receptive vocabulary of 10,000 words or more

-Understands short stories and can answer simple questions about them

-Counts to ten by rote

-Uses more descriptive words

-Can tell function of common objects

-Speech is intelligible to most strangers

-Relates to experiences at home, school, etc.

5 to 6 years old

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-Follows instructions independently and in small groups

-Receptive vocabulary of 13,000 words of more

-Uses past, present and future tense appropriately

-Produces 5 -7 word sentences

-Uses more detail in their sentences 

-Understands letters represent the spoken word

-Recognizes letters and sounds make up text

-Retells short stories with some detail

-Counts to 30 by rote

-Names days of the week

-Asks "how" questions

-Follows rules to simple games 

-Follows simple procedures to routine and schedule 

6 to 7 years old

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-Receptive vocabulary of 20,000 words or more

-Understands most concepts of time (e.g., before, after)

-Understands left vs. right

-Counts to 100 by rote

-Understands letters form words and make up text 

-Able to do simple reading and writing 

-Understands short stories and can answer questions and retell stories with detai

7 to 8 years old

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-Follows complex directions with repetition

-Uses compound and complex sentences

-Carries on conversation with peers and adults 

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