Published on June 04, 2019

Is My Child Talking Normally?

Speech Language Pathologist

Is my child speaking normally? Should he or she be saying more words, or understanding me more?

If these are questions that you’ve asked yourself, then it’s time to have a talk with your child’s pediatrician. He or she will be able to refer you, if necessary, to an American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) certified speech language pathologist. This type of therapist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all speech, language, social and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

There are some general guidelines that you and your child’s doctor can discuss regarding your child’s development.

We expect infants to have a differentiated cry very early in life (tired, hungry, etc.), between birth and three months of age.

What should you feed your baby when he or she cries?

  • 0 – 13 months: Breast milk and/or formula
  • 5 – 6 months: Thin baby food cereal
  • 6 – 7 months: Stage one baby foods (thin, smooth puree)
  • 7 – 8 months: Stage two baby foods/baby cereals
  • 8 – 9 months: Soft, mashed table foods and table food smooth purees (applesauce, etc.)
  • 9 months: Meltable solids (Towne House crackers, Gerber biter biscuits, graham crackers, puffs, yogurt melts)
  • 10 months: Soft solids (bananas, avocado, Gerber graduates fruits)
  • 11 months: Soft single texture solids (pasta, thin deli meat, muffins)
  • 12 months: Soft mixed texture solids (stage 3 Gerber, mac and cheese, French fries, lasagna)
  • 12 – 14 months: Soft table foods

Cup drinking should start at 4 to 6 months of age with a soft spout sippy cup, should you choose to use one. Remember, sippy cups are for parents. They do nothing for your child’s muscle development. Help them with an open cup of water when you can to develop natural cup drinking skills.

Straw drinking begins around 9 months of age. Your little one may develop their eating and drinking skills differently or have difficulty gaining weight, so if you have a question, a referral to a speech language pathologist is always warranted.

We expect infants to start to coo and goo sounds at 3 to 4 months of age and babble the same syllable over and over again, like “bababa” at approximately 6 months of age. A child should start to change the consonants and vowels in that babble by 9 months of age and produce his first real word with meaning by 12 months. We would expect that a child at approximately 1 year of age would be able to understand single step commands that are routine with gestures. For example, a hand held out to signify “Give me a diaper,” or giving a kiss. By 2 years old, a baby should understand 150 to 300 words; how’s that for a little one who is just learning to get around on their own!

Speech sounds you should be hearing by two include /m/, /b/, /p/, /h/, /n/, /w/, and vowels. 

At three we add the /k/, /g/, /t/, /d/, /f/ ng-as in king, y sound; some children are able to produce /l/, /r/ and blends like snow, stop, plate, blanket /s/ /z/and sh, ch sounds, although typically most children develop these sounds between 3 – 5 years.  At 5 – 6, we add the th sounds and at ages 6 – 8 the dz as in “measure.”

At 24 months, your child should be saying about 50 words to make their needs known regularly. They should be starting to combine those words into two-word phrases like “me do,” “me go,” and “mama bye-bye.” At this stage, phrases like bye-bye, thank you and I love you are considered one word, because that is how we say it to our little ones and how it is learned.

At 2 years, parents should understand 50 percent of what their child is saying.  At 3, they should understand 75 percent and by age 4 parents should understand all that their child is saying, while strangers understand 75 to 90 percent of what the child says easily. 

Your little one at 2 understands two-step commands and is quickly learning language. He is using 150 words and 300 – 400 at age 3. He will start to use three-word phrases at age 3, and ask simple questions about his environment. 

By age 4 your little one should be using 600 to 1,000 words, nouns, verbs, descriptive words, pronouns, prepositions, plural and past tenses. He should be able to answer what, where and when questions. Sentences are three to four words in length. Understanding of language at 4 includes understanding 1,500 words, recognizing differences, plurals, pronouns, adjectives, colors and early reading skills.

A 5-year-old uses 100 to 1,600 words, and speaks in four to six word sentences with complex words three to four syllables in length (basketball), using a, an, the, speech is more fluent. He is now able to understand complex directions, because, why, and when as well as 1,500 to 2,000 words. 

Did you think your little one was almost done learning basic language? Not yet!

Language of a 6-year-old includes a vocabulary of 1,500 to 2,100 words used to make his needs, wants and thoughts known. He is able to speak in five to six word complete sentences. Speech is fluent, there is not repetition or hesitancy in his speech any longer. Your child is using a variety of syllable shapes that are both simple and complex. He is able to understand a whopping 2,500 to 2,800 words. He is able to understand more complicated sentences. Reading skills are emerging with sight words and simple text.  So be careful what you say, and spell… your little one is learning!

Karen Wasson, M.A., C.C.C.-S.L.P., is a speech language pathologist at MyMichigan Health.