Typical Stages of Language Development

Below is a short summary of the stages of typical language development in children aged up to 5 years:


By the age of one year, a child is likely to be able to:

  • respond to familiar sounds, such as the telephone ringing

  • respond to simple commands, such as "no"

  • recognise his or her own name

  • respond to the names of familiar objects or people

  • say a few words such as "dada" or "mama"

  • enjoy sounds, music and books

  • try to make familiar sounds such as car and animal noises


By the age of two years, a child is likely to be able to:

  • say the names of simple body parts

  • listen to stories and name objects in pictures

  • understand simple statements, requests or questions such as "where's your shoe?"

  • use more than fifty words

  • talk to him or herself or toys during play

  • sing simple songs such as 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'

  • use some pronouns (such as 'he' or 'it') instead of names

  • try simple sentences, such as "milk all gone"


By the age of three years, a child is likely to be able to:

  • understand how objects are used - for example that a crayon is something to draw with

  • recognise his or her own needs, such as hunger

  • follow directions

  • use 3 or 4 word sentences

  • begin to use basic grammar

  • enjoy telling stories and asking questions

  • have favourite books and television programs

  • be understood by familiar adults


By the age of four years, a child is likely to be able to:

  • say the names of shapes and colours

  • understand some words relating to time, such as lunch time, today, winter

  • ask questions about 'who?', 'what?' and 'why?'

  • use around 900 words, usually in 4 - 5 word sentences

  • use mostly correct grammar with occasional mistakes (such as "I falled down")

  • become familiar with books and letters, even though they can't read yet

  • speak clearly enough to be understood by most people


By the age of five years, a child is likely to be able to:

  • know opposites, such as high and low, wet and dry, big and little

  • use sentences of about six words with correct grammar

  • talk about events that are happening, have happened or might happen

  • explain why something happens, such as "mum's car stopped because it ran out of petrol"

  • explain a series of instructions - for example, "stand up, get your shoes on and wait by the door"

  • say how he or she feels and share ideas

  • become interested in writing, numbers, counting and reading

  • speak clearly enough to be understood by anyone


(Reference: Speech Pathology Australia)