Speech and Communication

Talking milestones

In just a few short years, children go from being able to say a few words to babbling non-stop! Children’s charity I CAN explains what happens, when.

Children’s understanding always develops before talking – so they’ll be able to understand much more than they can say at first.


Children typically say their first words at about one year old (or a few months on either side). However, their words won’t sound the same as an adult’s as they won’t have mastered all the sounds yet.

2 years old

By 2 years old children tend to be able to say least 50 words, and can start to put two words together into phases like ‘more juice’ or ‘mummy shoes’. There will still be sounds they can’t say, so they might be hard to understand!

3 years old

A typical 3 year old will talk in four- or five-word sentences: at this point, their language skills take off! They’ll probably be asking lots of questions, and will enjoy listening to simple stories. By the time they’re three and a half, their speech should be clear to everyone.

4 years old

As they reach 4 years old, children are more and more able to have longer conversations. They can also talk about things that happened in the past, though you might still hear things like “I runned” instead of “I ran”!

5 years old

5-year-olds will usually be able to understand more complicated language, and will talk in well-formed sentences. Their understanding of longer instructions is good, too.

Language learning doesn’t stop here, of course: children will keep developing more and more sophisticated skills through their school years and into young adulthood. When they’re very young, words and sounds will be new (and exciting) to them. It’s all about practice!


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