Speech and Language Milestones

Birth – 1 Year : Speech & Language Milestones

Birth – 1 Year: Speech & Language Milestones

Speech & Language Milestones – There is a constant development in a child from the day he or she is born. Milestones between birth to 1 year are the crucial ones which form the foundation of a child’s communication skills.

The environment plays a key role too. Some children will develop certain speech and language skills quicker than others. However, despite a bit of difference between children, we expect most children to develop these milestones within a certain time-frame. The developmental milestones could be categorized into various segments. They are-

  • Speech Skills
  • Auditory Skills
  • Language Comprehension Skills
  • Language Expression Skills
  • Motor Skills
  • Social Skills

Speech & Language Milestones

Speech Milestones


Auditory skills

Speech milestones

Birth–3 Months
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
  • Auditory awareness
  • Responds to sound by smiling, head turning, stilling, startling
  • Responds to loud sounds
  • Recognizes mother’s/ caregiver’s voice, becomes quiet when mother soothes while crying
Birth–3 Months
  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)
  • Smiles when sees you
  • Make reflexive crying sounds when hungry or uncomfortable.
  • By two months the child will be starting coo in response to his mother’s voice.
4–6 Months
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music
  • Sound begins to have meaning
  • Listens more acutely
  • Starts to associate meaning to sound, e.g. responds to own name occasionally
  • Responds to changes in vocal inflections. Responds to changes in tone of your voice
  • Starts to localize source of voice with accuracy. Moves eyes in direction of sounds
  • Listens to own voice
4–6 Months
  • Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b and m
  • Chuckles and laughs
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • Differential cry: start to make some sounds, will laugh and squeal, but will still cry loudly when hungry, uncomfortable or annoyed.
  • Coos
  • Yells
  • Starts to change duration, pitch and intensity (prosodic features)
  • Uses vowel [a] as in car
  • Plays at making sounds  
7 Months– 12 months
  • Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns and looks in direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Associates meaning to words. Recognizes words for common items like “cup”, “shoe”, “book”, or “juice”
  • Begins to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • Discriminates suprasegmental aspects of duration, pitch and intensity
  • Has longer attention span
  • Discriminates vowel and syllable content
  • Monitors own voice and voices of others
  • Localizes sound from a distance
  • Discriminates speaker’s voice from competing stimuli
7 Months–12 months
  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as “tata upup bibibibi”. Uses vowels like o, a, ae
  • Uses speech or non crying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although sounds may not be clear
  • Uses a “singsong” voice
  • Imitates patterns of intonation
  • Uses some consonants [p, b, m, d]
  • Imitates sounds and number of syllables used by others
  • Uses suprasegmental features
  • Uses longer strings of repeated syllables

Language Comprehension

Language Expression

Birth- 3 months
  • Listen to the rhythm and melodies of speech.
  • Usually can pick out their mothers’ voices.
  • Learn the rhythm and melodies of two languages when both are frequently spoken in their environment.
  • startles to sudden noises, becomes alert to sounds by blinking or widening eyes
  • Responds to speaker’s face
  • Responds to talking by quietening or smiling
  • Prefer “baby talk” and voices with high pitch.
Birth- 3 months
  • Cries to express hunger and anger
  • Begins to vocalize to express pleasure
  • Use undifferentiated crying, which is crying that sounds the same and does not vary by specific need.
  • Make cooing sounds, often vowel sounds such as “ah-ah-ah” or “ooh-ooh-ooh.”
  • At about 3 months, make cooing sounds back to someone who is talking to them.
4 Months – 6 Months
  • Recognizes own names occasionally
  • Frequently localizes sound source with head or eye turn. Usually stops crying in response to voice
  • Discriminates between angry and friendly vocal tones, e.g. cries in response to an angry voice
4 Months – 6 Months
  • Make sounds like “goo” and blow bubbles at the same time.
  • At about 6 months, start to babble, repeat sounds, such as “ma-ma-ma” or “bah-bah-bah” to get attention or express feeling.
  • By 6 months of age, vary their cries to signal specific needs.
  • Vocalizes in response to singing
  • Vocalizes in response to speech
  • Vocalizes when alone or with others
7 Months – 12 Months
  • Appears to recognize names of family members in connected speech, even when person named is not in sight
  • Responds with appropriate arm gestures to such words as up, high, bye bye, etc.
  • Enjoys music or singing
  • Appears to listen to whole conversation between others
  • Regularly stops activity when name is called
  • Appears to recognize the names of a few common objects by localizing them when they are named
  • Will sustain interest up to a minute while looking at pictures or books with adult
  • Hear words as distinct sounds.
  • By 9 months, usually recognize the meaning of some facial expressions and tone of voice, such as when a parent says “No!
  • Appears to enjoy listening to new words
  • Generally able to listen to speech without being distracted by other competing sounds
  • Occasionally gives toys and objects to adult on verbal request
  • Occasionally follows simple commands, e.g. Put that down.
  • Responds to music with body or hand movement in approximate time
  • Demonstrates understanding of verbal requests with appropriate head and body gestures
  • Shows increased attention to speech over prolonged periods of time
  • Begin to follow simple commands like “give me the toy.”
  • Usually understand “mama” and “dada” and can identify each parent.
7 Months – 12 Months
  • Repeats CV syllables in babble [pa pa]
  • Starts to respond with vocalizations when called by name
  • Plays more games, e.g. pat a cake, peek a boo, hand clapping, etc. and vocalizes during games
  • Appears to “sing”
  • Vocalizes to great a familiar adult
  • Calls to get attention
  • Uses some gestures and language appropriately, e.g. shakes head for “ho”
  • Repeat sounds that they hear.
  • Mimic the rhythm of the way others talk to them.
  • May say words like “mama” and “dada.”
  • By 9 months may wave “bye-bye” when prompted.
  • Uses jargon of 4 or more syllables – short sentence-like structures without true words
  • Starts to use varied jargon patterns with adult intonation patterns when playing alone
  • Initiates speech gesture games such as round and round the garden
  • Talks to toys/objects using longer verbal patterns
  • Frequently responds to songs or rhymes by vocalizing
  • Correctly refer to each parent as “mama” or “dada.”
  • Use the index finger to point to things they want and need.
  • At about 12 months, say a few single words other than “mama” or “dada.”

mother with her kid

Social skills

Motor milestones

Birth – 3 months
  • Appears to listen to speaker
  • Has brief eye contact but by 3 months regularly looks directly
  • at speaker’s face, localizes speaker with eyes and starts to watch mouth rather than whole face
  • Smiles/coos in response, in particular to mother/caregiver
Birth – 3 months
  • No neck control,  head needs to be supported.
  • Observes mothers face, turn towards light and will be able to make jerky kicks when on back.
  • Will be able to suck well to feed.baby-developmental-milestones-1274x800
4 – 6 months
  • Maintains eye contact
  • Loves games such as round and round the garden
  • Produces different vocalizations for  different reasons
  • Imitates facial expressions
  • Takes the initiative in vocalizing and engages adult in interaction
  • Starts to understand vocal turn taking, e.g. vocalizes in response to adult vocal input
4 – 6 months
  • Neck control, will be able to hold his head up independently, and later lean on forearms and raise his head.
  • Attempts to roll from front to side and will sit up with support.
  • Becomes more visually alert and gaze around, reach out and touch objects that the child looks at, and begin to take an interest in an object in hand
7– 12 months
  • Begins to understand that communication is a two-way process
  • Shows a desire to interact with people
  • Becomes more lively to familiar people
  • Demonstrates anticipation of activities
  • Nods, waves and claps
  • Calls to get attention
  • Requests by reaching and pointing
  • Enjoys frolic play
  • Continues to develop turn taking skills
  • Begins book sharing by looking at pictures in a book with adult
  • Starts to understand question and answer, e.g. shakes head appropriately for “no”
  • Understanding of interaction continues to develop
  • Understands greetings
  • Turn-taking skills continue to develop
  • Vocalizes in response to mother’s call
  • Indicates desire to change activities
  • Responds to laughter by repeating action
  • Begins directing others by tugging, pushing
  • Vocalizes with gesture to protest
  • Enjoys games and initiates them
7– 12 months
  • Can roll from back to stomach, can sit alone and is learning to get up on all fours.
  • Will be able to pass an object from one hand to the other and is mouthing objects more often.
  • Can roll to change positions, sit and is crawling.
  • Will attempt to stand with support and may walk a little with support or holding on.
  • Responds to music with body or hand movement.babies-1st-nouns

Speech & Language Milestones

What can you do to help?

  • Check your child’s ability to hear, and pay attention to ear problems and infections, especially when they keep occurring.
  • Reinforce your baby’s communication attempts by looking at him or her, speaking, and imitating his or her vocalizations.
  • Repeat his or her laughter and facial expressions.
  • Teach your baby to imitate actions, such as peekaboo, clapping, blowing kisses, pat-a-cake, itsy bitsy spider, and waving bye-bye. These games teach turn taking that is needed for conversation.
  • Talk while you are doing things, such as dressing, bathing, and feeding (e.g., “Mommy is washing Sam’s hair”; “Sam is eating carrots”; “Oh, these carrots are good!”).
  • Talk about where you are going, what you will do once you get there, and who and what you’ll see (e.g., “Sam is going to Grandma’s house. Grandma has a dog. Sam will pet the dog.”).
  • Teach animal sounds (e.g., “A cow says ‘moo'”).
  • Communicate with your child in the language you are most comfortable using.


Speech & Language Milestones

Red Flags:

It is important that parents seek advice from a Speech and Language Therapist if:

  • A child does not respond to mothers speech by staring or smiling
  • A child does not achieve neck control until 6 months of age
  • Sucking and feeding is an issue
  • A child does not cry for indicating needs even after 8-9 months
  • Does not respond to name call
  • Does not recognize parents
  • No eye contact while speaking to child

Read some more tips to improve your child’s Speech and Language Skills here

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