Milestones in language development

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Prerequisite for developing language skills, is human interaction. Child can only learn to talk and communicate with others by practicing it with an adult. Children are interested in communicating from very young age on. It is crucial that an adult systematically responds to the child's initiatives, whether it is crying, laughing or babbling.

Adult can support child's communication skills by being interested in the child's thoughts, discussing, listening and focusing on the child. Singing, reading, talking, rhyming, playing board games and joking make language skills stronger.

Milestones in language development

6 months old

The child starts to babble and use syllables, like ma-ma and pa-pa. These syllables make the child's first words later on. Learns to use many different syllables when practicing babbling and making sounds.

9 months old

The child starts to react to his own name. He enjoys it when someone tells him the names of different items in the house for example. Learns to point at things that interest him. Learns to use also other gestures, expressions, and movements (such as waving for bye-bye) and that they are an important part of communication. Likes to play linguistic games with adults.

TIPS to support language development with 0-1 year olds

  • Use clear, bright colors (black, white, red, yellow) to raise the child's attention
  • Play give-take games
  • Look at picture books and discuss what you see
  • Imitate the child's facial expressions and sounds
  • Rhyme, sing
  • Encourage to communicate


1 year old

The child says the first words around her first birthday. Words can be a little "off" and that is fine if they do not sound exactly how they should. The main point is that the child is trying and learning! Play is short-term and concentrates on exploring the world around her.

2 year old

Is learning to understand the world. Asks many "what" questions. Knows many words and keeps on building up his vocabulary rapidly. Can follow familiar guidelines. Can play short-time role play. Some can speak with short sentences, at least two words in a row "take apple". A child can make up his own words and it is normal.

TIPS to support language development with 1-2 year olds

  • Use real words (no 'babytalk')
  • Encourage them to communicate and talk
  • Play hide and seek
  • Practice taking turns
  • Read simple stories that have repetition


3 year old

Is a talented speaker already. Usually, parents/guardians understand everything he says and can 'translate' to others if needed. He might repeat certain syllables as "ba-ba-ball" and it is normal. He can tell about his day. Understands adult conversations, but some misunderstandings occur still. Asks many "why" questions. Can play role-play along with peers.

4 year old

Enjoys talking and listening to others. She makes up poems and rhymes and listens to stories with interest. Imagination is vivid and play can go on for hours. Usually, speech is understandable and clear, but a couple of sounds might be missing. Can play with peers and children communicate during play about what is happening next.

TIPS to support language development with 3-4 year olds

  • Don't correct the child's talk, but repeat the word in a correct form
  • Read storybooks suitable for the child's age
  • Play games that include language
  • Play board games (memory games, puzzles, sorting)
  • Sing, rhyme and use gestures and finger play
  • Listen to sounds outside and talk about what you hear


5 year old

Language skills have developed and worked as a "tool" in daily life. Is interested in letters and numbers. He plays with words and practices many skills that are needed in school. Is interested in drawing, coloring, and construction.

6 year old

Knows letters and can write his own name. Can listen to long stories and enjoys making jokes. May recognize written words in the surroundings. Children in Finland attend preschool at the age of 6.

Support language development with Kindiedays Lesson Plans

7 year old

Linguistic skills have developed further. She can ponder and wonder about things. It is easiest to think of things that can be seen. Most Finnish children learn to read when they go to school, first grade at the age of 7.

Always keep in mind that every child develops at their own pace. Happy babbling!



Haukilehto, M. 2020. Terveyskirjasto Duodecim. Puheen ja kielen kehityksen vaikeudet lapsella.