To book an assessment or make an inquiry, please contact the office at 519-506-TALK (8255); or stop in and see us at 137 George St W., Unit 302 Durham, ON!.

Language Development

Language development begins as soon as a child is born. At this early age a child learns to communicate their needs and wants and a parent learns how to interpret this communication. As a child grows and develops their language and communication skills become more skilled and complex, adding sounds, words and sentences to their communication abilities.

When considering how a child’s language is developed we need to consider both receptive (listening and understanding) and expressive (speaking) language skills.

Below is a brief outline of the language skills that develop from birth to 5 years.


  • listen to speech sounds in their environment
  • startle to a new or loud sound
  • cry, coo, make facial expressions to communicate pleasure or pain

0-3 Months

  • turn and smile to familiar voices
  • attend closley to a new voice
  • cries can be differentiated (hungry, tired etc)
  • repeat the same sound and coo when content

4-6 Months

  • respond to “no” and changes in tones of voice
  • “play” with sounds by babbling (baba, mama)
  • communicate needs through gestures and noises

7-12 Months

  • turn and look when spoken to and respond to name
  • play “peek-a-boo”
  • respond to simple requests (“give it to mommy”)
  • babbling includes more sounds
  • first words begin to appear (mama, bye bye)

1-2 Years

  • point to known objects and pictures
  • follow simple directions (“push the car”)
  • understand simple questions (“where’s the doggie?”)
  • enjoy repetitive stories
  • use more words (150-300 words) and begin using 2-word combinations (“what’s that?”)

2-3 Years

  • understand 2-step directions (“take off your shirt and put it in the laundry”)
  • understand basic concepts (hot/cold, stop/go)
  • uses between 500 and 800 words in 1, 2 and 3 word combinations
  • will draw attention to a new or interesting object

3-4 Years

  • understand “who?”, “what?” and “where?” questions
  • understand prepositions (in, on, under)
  • more often uses  3, 4 and 5 word sentences to talk about life experiences (friends, preschool)
  • speech is clear and understandable by family and others most of the time

4-5 Years

  • understand most conversations and directions at home and school
  • create long and detailed sentences to tell a story
  • engage in conversations with peers and adults
  • easily understood by family and others almost all of the time

Source: Ages and Stages: Developmental Milestones for Receptive and Expressive Language Development. Caroline Bowen

Speech Development

Below are ranges of when children typically learn to say each sound. It is important to remember that as children are learning to speak they will make sound errors along the way (eg. “w” for “r”, “wabbit” for “rabbit”). These errors are a child’s way of trying to say a new sound in a word or sentence.

1-3 Years

  • p, m, h, n, w, b

2-4 Years

  • k, g, d, f, y, ng

3-6 Years

  • r, l

4-7 Years

  • ch, sh, z, j

5-8 Years

  • th, zh

Source: Helping Kids Discover & Develop Language. Angus, Cahalan, Chenette & Pinnau Emrich

Reading Development

Katie & Maureen Reading a Book






8-12 Months

  • may show interest by looking at books that have very familiar pictures
  • looks at pictures in book for very short periods of time

1 Year

  • looks at pictures in book, and may point or make sounds
  • responds to songs and rhymes by vocalizing,or singing along

1-2 Years

  • turns pages in book more than one at a time
  • pats or points to a few pictures in a book, especially when labelled by a parent
  • shows interst in simple stories for brief periods of time
  • begins to name colourful pictures

2-3 Years

  • knows the function and use of written language-that words of have meaning and purpose
  • begins to name black and white pictures
  • enjoys having a favourite book or books read over and over again
  • enjoys books that have repeatable and predictable patterns
  • enjoys books that have catchy phrases and rhymes
  • begins to sit alone to look at books
  • turns pages one at a time
  • knows that books have a front and back cover
  • knows the direction of print- left to right in  English
  • listens to and enjoys being read to for longer periods of time

3-4 Years

  • recognizes familiar print such as restaurant logos, names on cereal boxes, and may identify them verbally
  • pretends to read books by holding the book and turning pages
  • recognizes and may say words that rhyme and words that begin with the same sound
  • enjoys being read to and participates in the book by filling in the missing parts verbally

4 Years

  • says rhyming words and words that string together with the same sound
  • understands that parent is reading the words in the book rather than describing the pictures
  • recognizes word boundaries by pointing to spaces between the words
  • pretends to read the book, usually by having it memorized

5 Years

  • demonstrates understanding that words can be divided into smaller parts by tapping out or counting out the number of syllables in a word
  • names letters in alphabet and numbers 1-10
  • may know that letters have sounds and the sounds that some letters make
    identifies first sounds in a spoken words (eg. ball begins with ‘b’)
  • begins to point to specific letters on a page
  • may read some familiar words by sight

Writing Development

1-2 Years

  • holds a large marker or crayon
  • may scribble, especially when another person is writing

2-3 Years

  • scribbles using wavy and circular lines
  • writes by drawing or scribbling

3-5 Years

  • experiments with scribbling letters, numbers or letter like forms prints some large capital letters
  • knows the difference between drawing and writing
  • copies/imitates simple lines or shapes
  • understands that writing has a purpose
  • writes one letter or word to stand for a whole sentence or idea
  • prints own name, some letters of the alphabet and numbers
  • writes strings of letter in no particular order.

5-6 Years

  • uses 1- 3 letters to spell words
  • spells words like they sound

Newsletter Sign up!

Image Description