Language refers to a child’s talking and listening skills. Many parents wonder if their child’s language skills are developing normally. While individual children develop their language skills at different rates, there is a general pattern to children’s language development. Following is a guide of what to expect in the first 5 years.

By the age of 1, your toddler should be able to:

• respond to familiar sounds, such as the telephone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, or the car in the driveway
• understand simple commands, such as “no”
• recognise their own name
• understand the names of familiar objects or people
• say “dad”, “mumma” and a few other words
• enjoy songs, music and books
• try to make familiar sounds, such as car and animal noises

By the age of 2, your toddler should be able to:

• say the names of simple body parts, such as nose or tummy
• listen to stories and say the names of pictures
• understand simple sentences, such as “where’s your shoe?”
• use more than fifty words such as “no”, “gone”, “mine”, “teddy”
• talk to themselves or their toys during play
• sing simple songs, such as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, or “Baa baa black sheep”
• use some pronouns instead of names, such as “he”, “it”
• try simple sentences, such as “milk all gone”

By the age of 3, your child should be able to:

• understand how objects are used – a crayon is something to draw with
• recognise their own needs, such as hunger
• follow directions
• use three to four 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 4, your child should be able to:

• understand shape and colour names
• understand some “time” words, such as lunch time, today, winter
• ask who, what and why questions
• use lots of words, about 900, usually in four to five word sentences
• use correct grammar with occasional mistakes, such as “I falled down”
• use language when playing with other children
• speak clearly enough to be understood by most people

By the age of 5, your child should be able to:

• understand opposites, such as high and low, wet and dry, big and little
• use sentences of about six words with correct grammar
• talk about events which are happening, have happened or might happen
• explain why something happens, such as “Mum’s car stopped because the petrol ran
• explain the function of objects, for example, “This scrunchie keeps my hair away”
• follow three directions, for example, “Stand up, get you shoes on and wait by the door”
• say how they feel and tell you their ideas
• become interested in writing, numbers and reading things
• speak clearly enough to be understood by anyone

This information was provided by Speech Pathology Australia. for more information, go to