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Are Her Speech Milestones on Track?

Knowing what to listen for, when, can make all the difference in your child’s verbal development.


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How old should she be when she says mama? (Up to a year.) When should she start to speak in sentences? (1 to 2 years.) According to the journal American Family Physician, as many as 19 percent of kids ages 2 to 7 experience some kind of language delay, so if she’s not tracking, she’s hardly alone. Refer to our cheat sheet of where your kid should be when.

Birth to 1 Year

What to expect:
Birth to 3 Months:
•  Uses different cries for different reasons
•  Smiles when she sees you
•  Makes pleasure noises (like cooing)
4 to 6 Months:
•  Giggles and laughs
•  Babbles with the sounds p, b and m (i.e., “bbbabbbaba” and “mmuumuum”) 
•  Vocalizes excitement and displeasure (like screeching)
7 Months to 1 Year:
•  Babbles in short and long “phrases”
•  Communicates using hand gestures, like waving and holding arms to be picked up
•  Speaks one or two words, typically “mama” and “dada”
How you can help:
•  Play imitation games, like peekaboo, blowing kisses and waving “bye”
•  Teach her animal sounds
•  Talk about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling (i.e., “Mommy is putting on her shoes” and “You make me so happy!”)

1 to 2 Years

What to expect:
•  Increases her vocabulary by about three words each month
•  Asks one or two-word questions (i.e., “Where’s doggie?”)
•  Puts two words together (i.e., “More cookie”)
How you can help:
•  Narrate the items in your surroundings, like, “This tree is green”
•  Expand on their words. For example, if she says, “shoe,” you can respond with, “Yes, that’s mommy’s brown shoe”
•  Read to your child, using books with large pictures

2 to 3 Years

What to expect:
•  Has a word for nearly everything
•  Asks, “Why?”
•  Speaks clearly enough that familiar listeners can usually understand her speech
How you can help:
•  Use simple speech so she can imitate you
•  Ask your child to repeat something if you cannot understand what she is saying
•  Practice counting, talk about colors and play yes-and-no games

3 to 4 Years

What to expect:
•  Speaks clearly enough so that people other than the typical listeners can usually understand her speech
•  Uses rhyming words
•  Uses proper pronouns
How you can help:
•  Read books with a simple plot and then ask her about her favorite part
•  Ask your child to talk about the people in family photos
•  Play the category game by placing three similar pictures together and one that does not match (i.e., a car, a boat, a plane and a dog)—Ask your child to indicate which picture doesn’t belong in that group

Missing too many milestones?

Talk to your pediatrician. She will help you assess and may refer you to The New Jersey Early Intervention System (NJEIS), which provides statewide services to developmentally delayed kids from birth to age 3. The evaluation is free and is done in your home or your child’s daycare. At 3, a child will transition to the school district’s resources, since they have special education programs. For more information about New Jersey’s early intervention services, contact your pediatrician or head to the NJEIS website.

More Like This: 
Suspect a Language Delay? Speak Up!
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