Language Development in the First 5 Years

[ This information is taken from Speech Pathology Australia ]

Although there is a general pattern with children’s language development, it is important to note that each individual child will acquire language at a different rate.

What should I expect from a one year old?

A one year old should:

  • Respond to familiar sounds such as a phone ringing or a car on the driveway
  • Understand simple commands such as ‘no’
  • Recognise their own name
  • Understand the names of familiar objects or people
  • Say ‘dad’, ‘mamma’ and ‘nanna’ etc
  • Enjoy songs, music and books
  • Try to make familiar sounds such as a car, plane or animal noises

What should a two year old be able to do?

A two year old should:

  • 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 fifty words such as ‘no, gone, mine, bear/teddy’
  • Talk to themselves or their toys during play
  • Sing simple songs such as ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’
  • Use some pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘it’
  • Try simple sentences such as ‘milk all gone’

What should I expect for a three year old?

A three year old should:

  • Understand how objects are used e.g a chair is something we sit on
  • Recognise their own needs such as hunger
  • Follow basic directions
  • Use 3-4 word sentences
  • Begin to use basic grammar
  • Enjoy telling stories and asking questions
  • Have favourite books and TV programs
  • Be understood by familiar adults

What should a four year old be able to do?

A four year should:

  • Understand shapes and colours
  • Understand some time words such as lunch, today and summer
  • 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

What should I expect for a five year old?

A five year old should:

  • Understand opposites such as high/low, wet/dry, big/little
  • Use sentences of about six words using correct grammar
  • Talk about events which are happening, have happened or might happen
  • Explain why something happens such as ‘mum’s car stopped because the petrol ran out’
  • Explain the function of objects, e.g ‘this hair band keeps my hair away from my face.’
  • Follow three directions e.g ‘stand up, get your shoes on and wait by the door’
  • Say how they feel and tell you their ideas
  • Become interested in writing, numbers and reading things
  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by anyone.