Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

Speech development in little ones

on March 3, 2013

A mother recently asked me: “What is ‘normal’ speech development?” and that is really hard to answer. In my kindy, I can tell the children who are delayed in their speech, I can tell which ones will most likely benefit from speech therapy and I can tell the ones that will most likely ‘grow out of it’  but it’s a difficult developmental skill to assess (unless you are a speech pathologist).

The information below is some that I have been given by Speech Pathology Australia which may give parents a few guidelines.

By the age of ONE, your baby 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 TWO, 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 50 words such as ‘no’, ‘gone’, ‘mine’, ‘teddy’
  • talk to themselves or their toys during play
  • sing simple songs, such as ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ or ‘Baa Baa Black sheep’
  • use some pronouns instead of names, such as ‘he’ and ‘it’
  • try simple sentences, such as ‘milk all gone’

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

  • understand shape and colour names
  • understand some ‘time’ words, such as lunch time, today and 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

Don’t forget that if you suspect a delay in speech it doesn’t hurt to get their hearing tested. That is how we learn to speak! So if their hearing is a little off, their speech will be off as well. Same goes for if your child has recurrent ear infections as a young child.

Some things you can do to help and encourage speech development:

1. Repeat back to your child what they have said to reinforce correct enunciation. For example, a child I know said the other day, “Des, Mum dives me doddies.” to which I responded “Your mum gives you lollies? Well aren’t you lucky!”

2. If you have a very quiet/introverted child, present opportunities for them to speak, explain and describe.

3. Avoid ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions or questions where they can nod/shake their head or give you one-word answers. Ask them to tell you what they did at kindy, to explain what is in their painting or to describe what one of the stories that was read was about.


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