Speech and Language is more than WORDS

One of the most common questions speech therapist get is “how many words should my (however old the child is) child have?”

While counting words is a very concrete, easy to recognize way of measuring language development, did you know that there are other very important ways to measure development?

Here are some guidelines from the American Speech-Language-and-Hearing Association.

**Please note, there IS variance in children’s development.
Your child might not have all skills until the end of a the age range – and that is okay!

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Birth–3 Months 

  • Smiles at people
  • Makes cooing sounds
  • Cries change for different needs
  • Startles at loud sounds
  • Quiets or smiles when you talk – seems to recognize your voice

4 – 6 months

  • Coos and babbles when playing alone or with you
  • Makes speech-like babbling sounds, like paba, and mi
  • Giggles and laughs
  • Makes sounds when happy or upset
  • Moves eyes in the direction of sounds
  • Responds to changes in your tone of voice
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music

7 months – 1 year

  • Babbles long strings of sounds, like mimi upup babababa
  • Uses sounds and gestures to get and keep attention
  • Points to objects and shows them to others
  • Uses gestures like waving bye, reaching for “up,” and shaking his head “no”
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Says 1 or 2 words, like hidogdadamama, or uh-oh
  • We like to see their first word by their first birthday, but sounds may not be clear
  • Looks when you point
  • Understands words for common items and people—words like cuptruckjuice, and daddy
  • Starts to respond to simple words and phrases, like “No,” “Come here,” and “Want more?”
  • Plays games with you, like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.
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  • Uses a lot of new words
  • Uses the following sounds: pbmh, and w in words
  • Starts to name pictures in books
  • Asks questions, such as “What’s that?” or “Where’s baby?” 
  • Puts 2 words together, like “more milk,” “no bed,” and “bye-bye mommy.” 
  • Points to a few body parts when you ask
  • Follows 1-part directions, like “Roll the ball” or “Kiss the baby.”
  • Responds to simple questions, like “Who’s that?” or “Where’s your shoe?”
  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Points to pictures in a book when you name them


  • Has a word for almost everything
  • Talks about things that are not in the room
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n in words
  • Uses words like inon, and under
  • Uses two- or three- words to talk about and ask for things
  • People who know your child can understand him
  • Asks “Why?”
  • May repeat some words and sounds
  •  Understands opposites, like go–stop, big–little, and up–down
  • Follows 2-part directions, like “Get the spoon and put it on the table.”
  • Understands new words quickly


  • Answers simple who, what, and where questions
  • Says rhyming words, like hatcat
  • Uses pronouns, like Iyoumewe, and they
  • Uses some plural words, like toysbirds, and buses
  • Most people understand what your child says
  • Asks when and how questions
  • Puts 4+ words together
  • May make some mistakes, like “I goed to school.”
  • Talks about what happened during the day
  • Understands words for some colors, some shapes, and some words for family (brothergrandmother)

As mentioned earlier, children develop at their own rate. These charts tell you when most children will reach each milestone. Missing one skill in an age range is not indicative of a problem; however, you may want to seek help if you answer “no” to most of the skills.

For research-based tips and techniques on HOW to practice these skills with your little one, check out our Talk the Talk course!

Reference: The American Speech-Language-and-Hearing Association

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