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Many parents worry that their child is not talking yet, or that people cannot understand them. So, the following information should help you decide whether their development is typical or of concern:

All children are different and develop skills at different rates but typically by 18 months you should see your child doing:

  1. Enjoy games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake and toys that make a noise.
  2. Start to understand a few simple words, like ‘drink’, ‘shoe’ and ‘car’. Also simple instructions like ‘kiss mummy’, ‘kick ball’ and ‘give me’.
  3. Point to things when asked, like familiar people and objects such as ‘book’ and ‘car’.
  4. Use up to 20 simple words, such as ‘cup’, ‘daddy’ and ‘dog’. These words may not always be easily recognised by unfamiliar adults.
  5. Gesture or point, often with words or sounds to show what they want.
  6. Copy lots of things that adults say and gestures that they make.
  7. Start to enjoy simple pretend play, for example pretending to talk on the phone.



By 24 months they should be:

  1. Concentrate on activities for longer, like playing with a particular toy.
  2. Sit and listen to simple stories with pictures.
  3. Understand between 200 and 500 words.
  4. Understand more simple questions and instructions. For example ‘where is your shoe?’ and ‘show me your nose’.
  5. Copy sounds and words a lot.
  6. Use 50 or more single words. These will also become more recognisable to others.
  7. Start to put short sentences together with 2-3 words, such as ‘more juice’ or ‘bye nanny’.
  8. Enjoy pretend play with their toys, such as feeding dolly.
  9. Use a limited number of sounds in their words – often these are p, b, t, d, m and w. Children will also often miss the ends off words at this stage. They can usually be understood about half of the time.


By 3 years they should be doing:

  1. Listen to and remember simple stories with pictures.
  2. Understand longer instructions, such as ‘make teddy jump’ or ‘where’s mummy’s coat?’
  3. Understand simple ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions.
  4. Use up to 300 words.
  5. Put 4 or 5 words together to make short sentences, such as ‘want more juice’ or ‘he took my ball’.
  6. Ask lots of questions. They will want to find out the name of things and learn new words.
  7. Use action words as well as nouns, such as ‘run’ and ‘fall’.
  8. Start to use simple plurals by adding ‘s’, for example ‘shoes’ or ‘cars’.
  9. Use a wider range of speech sounds. However, many children will shorten longer words, such as saying ‘nana’ instead of ‘banana’. They may also have difficulty where lots of sounds happen together in a word, e.g. they may say ‘pider’ instead of ‘spider.’
  10. Often have problems saying more difficult sounds like sh, ch, th and r. However, people that know them can mostly understand them.
  11. Now play more with other children and share things.
  12. Sometimes sound as if they are stammering or stuttering.  They are usually trying to share their ideas before their language skills are ready. This is perfectly normal, just show you are listening and give them plenty of time.


By 4 years you should expect:

  1. Listen to longer stories and answer questions about a storybook they have just read.
  2. Understand and often use colour, number and time related words, for example, ‘red’ car, ‘three’ fingers and ‘yesterday / tomorrow’.
  3. Be able to answer questions about ‘why’ something has happened.
  4. Use longer sentences and link sentences together.
  5. Describe events that have already happened e.g. ‘we went park.’
  6. Enjoy make-believe play.
  7. Start to like simple jokes.
  8. Ask many questions using words like ‘what’ ‘where’ and ‘why’.
  9. Still make mistakes with tense such as say ‘runned’ for ‘ran’ and ‘swimmed’ for ‘swam’.
  10. Have difficulties with a small number of sounds – for example r, w, l, f, th, sh, ch and dz.
  11. Start to be able to plan games with others.


By 5 years they should be:

  1. Understand spoken instructions without stopping what they are doing to look at the speaker.
  2. Choose their own friends and play mates.
  3. Take turns in much longer conversations.
  4. Understand more complicated language such as ‘first’, ‘last’, ‘might’, ‘may be’, ‘above’ and ‘in between’.
  5. Understand words that describe sequences such as “first we are going to the shop, next we will play in the park”.
  6. Use sentences that are well formed. However, they may still have some difficulties with grammar. For example, saying ‘sheeps’ instead of ‘sheep’ or ‘goed’ instead of ‘went’.
  7. Think more about the meanings of words, such as describing the meaning of simple words or asking what a new word means.
  8. Use most sounds effectively. However, they may have some difficulties with more difficult words such as ‘scribble’ or ‘elephant’.


Information taken from http://www.talkingpoint.org.uk


What is a phonological process?   Speech sounds are complex to say and sometimes little ones can have difficulty producing them accurately until they are more developed. They tend to replace these “tricky” sounds with ones that are easier for them to say.  We call these substitutions phonological processes. Normally children will grow out of these by a certain age.  Below is a guide for you on the most common phonological processes:

Substitution/process Description Example Age when typical child stops process
Reduplication When a complete (or incomplete) syllable is repeated e.g. baba for bottle Between 2 – 3 yrs
Affrication When a non-affricate sound is replaced with an affricate(ch or j) Joor for door 3 yrs
Final consonant deletion When the last consonant in the word is left off Child says “roe” instead of “road” 3 yrs
Fronting When a sound normally produced at the back of the mouth is produced further forward in the mouth Tup instead of cup 3 ½ yrs
Backing When a sound normally produced at the front of the mouth is produced further back Child says “gog” instead of “dog” This is very unusual and when we observe this process it is often an indicator of a severe phonological difficulty
Stopping When a fricative sound like f or s, or an affricate sound like ch or j is replaced with a plosive sound such as p or b Stopping /f/ fish → tish


Stopping /s/        soap → dope

Stopping /v/ very→ berry


Stopping /z/ zoo → doo

Stopping ‘sh’        shop = dop


Stopping ‘j’ jump → dump

Stopping ‘ch’  chair → tare

Stopping voiceless ‘th’ thing → ting

Stopping voiced ‘th’ them → dem


3 yrs


3 yrs


3 yrs 6 months


3 yrs 6 months

4 yrs 6 months



4 yrs 6 months


4 yrs 6 months


5 yrs


5 yrs

Weak syllable deletion When the weak syllable in a word is deleted Banana becomes nana 4 yrs
Initial consonant deletion When the initial sound is left off of the word “bunny” → “unny” This is very unusual and when we observe this process it is often an indicator of a severe phonological delay
Cluster reduction when a consonant in a cluster of sounds is left out “plane” → “pane”


4 yrs (without s)

5 yrs (in s clusters)

Gliding When an r sound becomes a w or y sound and an l sound becomes a w or y sound “robot” → “wobot”

“yellow” →”lellow”

6 yrs