Does my child need speech therapy?

What Is Normal?

Speech and Language Milestones from 18 months through 5 years old

As a parent of a toddler, I am constantly amazed at the things my son understands and how his speech is developing. I find myself saying, “Wow! I didn’t know he knew that!” This may or may not have ANYTHING to do with the fact that I am a Speech-Language Pathologist and it’s in my blood (ha ha)!

Do you find yourself saying the same thing about your child(ren)? Do you constantly compare your child to a sibling or other peers and wonder, “Is this normal development?” Below you’ll find the insider scoop on what is expected at each stage of your child(ren)’s development. But remember, all children develop at different rates, so the age ranges should be used as a guideline. For example, when reading the milestones for 18 months, think of it as “around 18 months your child should…”. Some children will master these skills earlier than other. As a general rule, if your child has less than 50 words between 18 months through 24 months, it is probably best to err on the side of caution and seek advice from a skilled speech-language pathologist.



18 months

  • Understands names of many objects (i.e. points to pictures in a book when you name them)
  • Can point to a few body parts (e.g. nose, eyes, tummy)
  • Can follow simple commands (e.g. “Push the car”; “Don’t touch!”)
  • Understands simple questions (e.g. “Where’s daddy?”)
  • Listens to simple stories, songs and rhymes
  • Gives a toy when asked
  • Waves good-bye and plays patty-cake
  • Uses 10-20 words or word approximations (it is common for children to simplify words – “bah-bah” for “bottle”)
  • May use some 2-word phrases (e.g. “more juice”)
  • Begins to use consonants such as /p, b, m, w, h/

2 years

  • Understands 2-part commands (e.g. “Get your shoes and put them on the shelf.”
  • Points to simple pictures of objects and at least 5 body parts
  • Knows the names of most common pictures and objects
  • Understands difference in meaning in contrasting concepts (e.g. hot / cold; stop / go; yummy / yucky; big / little)
  • Begins to understand objects by what they do (e.g. “What do we use to comb our hair?”)
  • Begins to recognize actions in pictures
  • Can say 50-100 words
  • Uses 2-3word phrases (e.g. “Sammy eat”; “Mommy sit”; “Me play ball”)
  • Can label common pictures and things
  • Begins to form some plurals by adding –s (e.g. book à books)
  • Mispronunciations and leaving sounds off in the middle and at the end of words is common
  • May use jargon (i.e. “gibberish” that sounds like a conversation but no one understands him/her)

3 years

  • Understands simple “Who?”, “Where?” and “What?” questions
  • Understands simple time concepts such as “Last night” and “tomorrow”
  • Likes to hear same story repeated
  • Understands longer sentences
  • Matches 3-4 colors
  • Understands words for some shapes (e.g.  circle, square)
  • Can follow 3-part instructions
  • Learns words quickly
  • Uses 3-4 word sentences
  • Uses pronouns, past tense verbs and questions
  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time
  • Uses consonant sounds /k, g, f, t, d/
  • Often asks for or directs attention to self (e.g. “Look! Watch me!”)and objects (e.g. “Elephant!”)
  • Asks “Why?”
  • May hear disfluencies (stuttering) in connected speech
  • May refer to self as “me” instead of using his/her name

4 years

  • Knows size and color adjectives
  • Understands physical needs (e.g. “What do you do when you are hungry?”)
  • Begins to follow requests containing more advanced spatial concepts (e.g. “Put the block under the table”)
  • Knows his/her last name, name of street on which he/she lives and several nursery rhymes
  • Can tell a story
  • Has a sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1,000 words
  • Answers many types of questions
  • Can show feelings with words
  • Asks “When?” and “How?” questions
  • Understood 90% of the time
  • Says most sounds but may substitute of make mistakes on the sounds /l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th/

5 years

  • Understands words for order, such as “first, next, last”
  • Understands words for time, such as “yesterday, today, tomorrow”
  • Follows longer directions, such as “Put your PJ’s on, brush your teeth, and pick out a book.”
  • Follows directions in class, such as “Draw a circle around something you eat.”
  • Understands “same vs. different”
  • Names numbers and letters
  • Keeps a conversation going
  • Can speak of imaginary conditions (e.g. “I hope…”)
  • Asks “Who?” and “Why?” questions
  • Defines objects by their use (e.g. “You eat with a  fork”)
  • Asks questions for information
  • Uses all types of sentences (e.g. “Let’s go outside after we eat.”)


Now that you’ve analyzed your child(ren)’s abilities with a fine-toothed comb, do you have concerns about their speech and language development? If so, come on in to Kid’s Creek Therapy where one of our fine Speech-Language Pathologists will assess your child’s development and put your mind at ease!

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