Speech Milestones For Ages 1 to 3 Years of Age

By AASLDecember 9, 2020

Childhood development is complex. Between speech and language development, and the variability between children, it’s not always easy to tell if your child’s development is considered “typical.” If you’re worried that your child’s speech development may be atypical, here is a tool for you to use. These are the developmental milestones in speech that average children meet by certain ages.

1. Between 1 and 2 years, typical development includes:

Hearing and Understanding

  • Follows simple 1-step directions using in/on or phrases like “roll the ball”
  • Listens to stories, songs, rhymes for longer periods of time
  • Points to 1-5 body parts on command and recognizes objects (i.e. points to pictures in a book when named)
  • Points to pictures in books when you name them
  • Around 1.5 years of age, a child understands about 200 words
  • Responds to -what questions and yes/no questions by shaking head


  • Uses p, b, m, h, w in words
  • Around 1-year-old, using one-word to communicate a variety of meanings (i.e. “car” may mean look at that car, I want my car, where is the car)
  • By 2 years old they should be putting 2 words together and will start to use “and” to form a sentence (i.e. hi mom, more juice, doggy bark etc.)
  • Will ask what, who, where questions such as “What that?”
  • Their vocabulary consists primarily of nouns and verbs
  • Will use over-extensions (i.e. all small furry animals are dogs)
  • Asks for “more”
  • Verbalizes immediate experiences (i.e. water cold)
  • Refers to self with pronoun and name (i.e. me Emma)
  • Engages in pretend play by around 2 years of age (using objects to represent things not present in play i.e. can use a banana to pretend to talk on a phone)
  • Overall, during this phase of development, children are using words to signal communicative intent in a variety of ways: practicing, protesting (i.e. no), greeting (i.e. hi _____), calling/addressing (i.e. Mommy), requesting action (i.e. says ball to get the ball), requesting an answer (cow?), labeling (i.e. points out and names body parts on a doll), repeating/imitating (i.e. overhears a word and repeats it back), answering (i.e. when an adult asks a question, the child responds/names it)
  • Socially, Around 1-year-old, engaging with others via joint reference, where the child can focus their attention to an event or object as directed by another person (begins through eye contact in looking at the object(s) and later moves to pointing or naming objects to direct others attention to focus on)

You may want to see a speech-pathologist if you have concerns about your child meeting any of the above milestones and is not following simple directions, listening to stories and songs, using more words to communicate, using communicative intent, engaging in joint referencing and pretend play.

2. Between 2 and 3 years, typical development includes:

Hearing and Understanding

  • Comprehension precedes production and at about 2.5 years, a child can comprehend up to 2,400 words and understands new words quickly
  • Can identify simple body parts (eyes, notes, arms, legs)
  • Follows simple 1-2 step commands (i.e. pick up the cup and give it to daddy)


  • Uses k g f t d and in in words
  • Using phrases to communicate and simple sentences (i.e. 3-4 words)
  • Uses telegraphic speech and incomplete sentences (i.e. push car down)
  • Responds to questions and asks simple -wh questions, including why, and yes/no questions by around 2.5 years of age
  • Expressive vocabulary is 200-600 words, averaging 425 words at about 2.5 years old
  • Using -ing and spatial words like in/on, plurals (i.e. cats, dogs), possessives (me/mine), and pronouns (I, me), uses simple irregular past tense verbs (were), develops regular past tense (walked, played) and will overgeneralize the past tense (goed, falled)
  • By 3 years old can give simple account of experiences and tell understandable stories
  • Talks during pretend play such as saying “beep beep” when moving cars
  • Uses words like in, on, under
  • Talks about things that are not in the room
  • Socially, children have communicative intent, with rapid topic shifts when talking. Communication includes commands, requests threats, questions, answers.

You may want to see a speech-pathologist if you have concerns about your child meeting any of the above milestones and has difficulty comprehending more information from the environment around them and following longer directions, is not using phrases to communicate, asking simple questions, has an overall limited vocabulary, and is not using communicative intent to make requests and respond to you.

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DISCLAIMER: Information published about one particular disorder does not necessarily apply to every individual who has the disorder discussed in this article. Treatments, therapies and suggestions are highly individual and must be customized to the needs of each person to be effective. Do not make changes to your/your child’s treatment plan as a result of what you read in this article (or any content published by AASL) without consulting your/your child’s physicians and therapists. This content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of All About Speech and Language or its therapists. To understand the opinions and recommendations of your/your child’s AASL therapist, schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss your concerns.


American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Identify the Signs: Communicating With Baby: Tips and Milestones From Birth to Age 5; https://identifythesigns.org/communicating-with-baby-toolkit/.

An Advanced Review of Speech-Language Pathology: Preparation for PRAXIS and Comprehensive Examination; 3rd Edition (Roseberry-McKibbin, Hedge). Da Capo Press: Cambridge, MA. 2007.

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