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Age-by-Age Guide to Your Child's Language Skills

Babies are born programmed to learn language, and are actually quite adept at it. Their built-in language ability follows a universal timetable, one that transcends ethnicity and socioeconomic class. Here's an overview of what to listen for and when in your child's language development:

2 months: Cooing; making long vowel sounds like "oo," "aa," and "ee"

6 months: Babbling using consonants

7 1/2 months: Recognizing familiar words or names

10 months: Pointing, grunting, and gazing to get her demands met; using her own invented words

12 months: Saying his first real words, such as Mama and Dada, a sibling's name, body parts, animal names, or noises like "woof, woof"

14 months: Identifying objects; following simple one-step commands like "Get the ball."

18 months: Saying 50 words; using verbs; asking "What's that?" to get name recognition

24 months: Speaking in two-word sentences, such as "Drink milk" or "Play ball"; using the words "no" and "mine" frequently

2 1/2 years: Conveying whole thoughts by employing just a few words, like saying "Mommy no socks" for "Mommy isn't wearing any socks today."

3 years: Speaking in longer sentences; putting several thoughts together to tell a story; using about 300 words; following a story line and remembering ideas from it; enjoying nonsense phrases

4 years: Having extensive conversations with adults; using adjectives in detailed sentences; telling knock-knock jokes; asking questions with proper intonation

5 years: Using expressive vocabulary of 2,500 words; understanding 14,000 words; expressing complicated thoughts like fears and dreams; saying "thank you"; using words to elicit reactions from others

Additional reporting by Colleen Davis Gardephe

Sources: Johns Hopkins University; J. Lane Tanner, MD, FAAP; Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD; John Bonvillian, PhD

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.