Typical language related milestones for children

Parentree-editors 2008-08-15 08:28:03

Every child is unique. They develop different skills at different times. The milestones given below are the average and many children can be ahead or behind the milestones.  Comparisons are unfair to children. We have provided these only because, sometimes, delayed language development may point to a different problem in children. If you are at all concerned about your child's development, consult your paediatrician for further guidance.

In the first year, your child:

  • Responds to gestures and facial expressions.
  • Makes cooing, babbling sounds in the crib 
  • Can associate names with objects like body parts and can point to them when the name is said
  • Will make double sounds like mama, papa
  • Will learn to repeat some monosyllabic words like "no" and may mangle other words, very cutely.

From 1+ to 3, your child:

  • Can make sounds that imitate the tones and rhythms that adults use when talking.
  • Plays along in games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake.”
  • Recognises certain books by their covers.
  • Pretends to read books by turning pages.
  • Names objects in a book.
  • Talks about characters in books.
  • Can point out objects in real life, after having seen pictures in books
  • Asks for (persistently and sometimes even commands) and listens to stories. They may even have a favourite story or two.
  • Asks or demands that adults read or write with them.
  • Scribbles with a purpose (trying to write or draw something).
  • Produces some letter-like forms and scribbles that resemble, in some way, writing.
  • Repeats words and phrases they have heard
  • Speaks simple sentences
  • Starts to recognise some alphabets, especially capitals (uppercase)

From 3+ to 4, your child:

  • Enjoys listening to and talking about stories and storybooks.
  • Occasionally connects what you read in storybooks with real life incidents
  • Starts to learn contrasting terms like big/small, large/tiny, tall/short etc.,
  • Asks you an increasing number of questions when you are reading them books
  • Makes attempts to read.
  • Identifies familiar signs and labels.
  • Identifies letters and makes letter-sound matches.
  • Uses known letters (or their best attempt to write the letters) to represent written language especially for meaningful words like their names
  • Can sing along with all the nursery rhymes they have heard repeatedly

From 4+ to 5, your child:

  • Sounds as if they are reading when they pretend to read. They are saying a lot of words from their memory.
  • Enjoys being read to
  • Retells simple stories
  • Corrects you when you make a mistake on a story which has been read before to them
  • Uses descriptive language to explain or to ask questions. 
  • Participates in rhyming games.
  • Recognises alphabets and letter-sound matches 
  • Begins to match spoken words with written ones. 
  • Begins to write letters of the alphabet and some words  he uses and hears often. 
  • Identifies smaller words (like the, my, you etc.) by sight (referred to as sight words)
  • Identifies new words by using letter-sound matches, parts of words and their understanding of the rest of a story or printed item.
  • Attempts to read words phonetically (by breaking them down into letters) and can accomplish this for smaller words
  • Writes random strings of letters
  • Can write specific alphabets when asked to

From 5+ to 6, your child:

  • Can usually write his own name
  • Often spells words creatively using phonetics (For example, writes "Allo" for "Hello")
  • Notices when you make errors in your speech especially in simple sentences
  • Recognises and writes all capital (uppercase) and many small (lowercase) variations of the alphabet
  • Speaks out major sounds in a word when trying to spell
  • Learns to use new vocabulary and grammatical constructs 
  • Writes more often, using letters and pictures. May label pictures with words.

From 6+, your child:

  • Learns to read by breaking down words, using phonetics
  • Understand more complex word sounds
  • Reads aloud with ease
  • Starts "real" reading (how adults do it rather than by sight or memory) of words and sentences appropriate to her age
  • If she mis-identifies a word, corrects herself based on other words around this one or visual cues in the page
  • Reads and understands simple instructions
  • Can describe information gained from texts, in his own words
  • Can write multiple simple sentences on topics that interests him
  • Has a rapidly expanding vocabulary


1. "Helping Your Child Become a Reader", U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communications and Outreach,  Washington, D.C., 2005


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