The number of words that your child can say typically provides a good indication of their language development. Although vocabulary milestones can provide a general overview of language development, every child develops vocabulary at their own pace. Most children say their first word between 10 to 14 months old. In this guide, we outline a child’s vocabulary milestones by age.

From Birth to 5 Months Old

Initially, newborn babies don’t really make many sounds other crying. From around 2 months old, babies usually discover their ability to vocalise. They may start making cooing or gurgling noises, vocalising pleasure or displeasure at their immediate environment.

By the time they’re 5 months old, your child may be able to make a few vowel sounds like ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’. They may also be able to giggle and make ‘fussy’ sounds when they’re uncomfortable. At this stage, some babies may also make noises when they’re spoken to.

From 6 to 12 Months Old

Photo of a baby girl

At around 6 months, your child may say their first word. They might be able to say a few simple words like ‘no’ ‘dada’, and ‘mama’, without really understanding their meaning. They’ll usually make frequent babbling sounds and raspberry noises. They may also try to copy the sounds that you make.

In addition to spoken language, your child may also be able to make a few gestures like pointing and waving.

1 Year Old

At 1 year old, most babies are able to say a handful of words. They’ll have a better understanding of the meaning behind the sounds that they make. They may be able to assign specific words to their meaning like ‘mama’, ‘dog’, ‘tree’ etc. Reading to your child at this stage in their development can help grow their vocabulary further.

They may be able to imitate your voice better and match the sounds of the words that you say. They may also be able to make consonant sounds alongside their vowels. As well as being able to say a few words, your child should also be able to communicate non-verbally through eye movements, facial expressions and gestures.

2 Years Old

Photo of a boy pretending to fly

At 24 months old, your child should be able to use around 50 words regularly and understand their meaning. Typically, a 2-year-old can say words like ‘grandpa’, ‘milk’, ‘eat’, ‘shoes’ and may be able to say two or three-word sentences like ‘over there’, ‘this one’, ‘in the box’ etc.

Typically, they’ll also have a better grasp of basic pronouns like ‘my’, ‘mummy’s’ etc. and be able to use them in short sentences like ‘my ball’, ‘mummy’s shoes’. Your child will usually be able to name body parts and respond to questions like ‘where’s the dog?’, ‘can you find the keys?’ etc.

3 Years Old

By the age of 3, most children are able to pronounce words clearly and speak in full sentences. Most 3-year-olds will be able to hold a conversation with an adult and be mostly understood.

Typically, they’re able to explain their needs and shouldn’t rely too heavily on pointing at objects to express their wants. Most 3-year-olds can also respond to familiar two-part instructions like ‘take off your jacket and hang it up’. If the instruction includes new experience for them, they may not fully understand the request until they have been shown a few times.

4 Years Old

Photo of a girl speaking into a microphone

In comparison to a 3-year-old, at age 4, children are generally much more expressive in their language. They’re usually able to use the tone of their voice in different ways to express their emotions. For example, they may speak higher when they’re excited, or speak lower when they’re upset.

At 4 years old, most children are able to tell stories. They should be able to recount their day and remember conversations they had. They should also be understood by adults other than their parents and close relatives.

By this age, most children will be able to read some simple words and identify individual letters. They should also have a better grasp of time. For example, they should understand that 2 minutes is a shorter time period that 2 hours. Similarly, they should be able to follow more complex instructions with several calls to action. For example, ‘brush your teeth, put your pyjamas on and choose a book.’

Child speech, language and communication experts Talking Point have a really useful Speech Progress Checker on their website, which is a great way to track your child’s vocabulary milestones.

At Edu Prints Plus, we make educational posters for children that inspire their learning. We have a whole collection of vocabulary posters that look great on bedroom walls and classrooms. All of our prints are made from thick, luxurious 350 gsm art card with a lovely velvet finish. They also have surface protection to combat sticky fingers.

Take a look at some of our vocabulary prints below:


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