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Speech Milestones

Milestones for speech development

Language milestones

Milestones for language development

Social Skills Milestones

Milestones for social skills development

Red Flags

Check out red flags you should be looking out for that might indicate the existent of developmental problems


Child speech development starts off with the existence of several phonological error processes that gradually get eliminated as a child gets older. These error processes are normal and part of the exploration and experimentation with sound production that children go through to eventually master speech sounds.

Atypical error processes on the other hand might indicate the presence of a speech sound disorder (read here for more), and would be best evaluated by a qualified speech therapist.

Common Error Processes

  • Stopping - sounds with long airflow are replaced with sounds with stopped airflow (e.g. "see" becomes "tee", "shoe" becomes "to")​

  • Fronting - sounds made at the back of the mouth are replaced with sounds that are produced near the front (e.g. "car" becomes "tar", "key" becomes "tea", "ship" becomes "sip")

  • Voicing - sounds produced with no voice are replaced with voiced sounds (e.g. "car" becomes "gar", "pig" becomes "big")

  • Final Consonant Deletion - a removal of the end of words (e.g. "comb" becomes "coe")

  • Assimilation - production of a sound is influenced by another sound within the word (e.g. "dog" becomes "gog")

  • Gliding - /l/ and /r/ sounds are replaced with /w/ or "y" -sound (e.g. "truck" becomes "twuck", "leg" becomes "yeg")

  • Weak Syllable Deletion - deletion of non-stressed syllables in a word (e.g. "elephant" becomes "efant", "potato" becomes "tato")

  • Cluster Reduction - 'clusters' of consonants in a word are simplified/reduced (e.g. "spoon" becomes "poon", "clown" becomes "cown")

A general intelligibility guide (by Dr Peter Flipsen) has been suggested as such:

  • Age 0 - 12 months: will sound 25% intelligible to strangers

  • Age 12 -24 months: will sound 50% intelligible to strangers

  • Age 24 - 36 months: will sound 75% intelligible to strangers

  • Age 36 - 48 months: will sound 100% intelligible to strangers

0 - 6 months

  • can make cooing sounds ("oo", "ee", "ah")

6 - 12 months

  • babbles and repeats sounds ("bababa", "mamama")

1 - 2 years old

  • can produce the following sounds:

    • /p/​

    • /b/

    • /m/

    • /n/

    • /t/

    • /d/

2 - 3 years old

  • can produce the following sounds:

    • /p/​

    • /b/

    • /m/

    • /n/

    • /t/

    • /d/

  • elimination of the following phonological processes:

    • Voicing​

    • Stopping

3 - 4 years old

  • can produce the following sounds:

    • /p/​

    • /b/

    • /m/

    • /n/

    • /t/

    • /d/

    • /k/

    • /g/

    • /f/

    • /s/

    • /y/

    • /h/

  • elimination of the following phonological processes:

    • Voicing​

    • Stopping

    • Final Consonant Deletion

    • Fronting

    • Assimilation

    • Weak Syllable Deletion

    • Cluster Reduction

4 - 5 years old

  • can produce the following sounds:

    • /p/​

    • /b/

    • /m/

    • /n/

    • /t/

    • /d/

    • /k/

    • /g/

    • /f/

    • /s/

    • /y/

    • /h/

    • /z/

    • /l/

    • /v/

    • "sh"​​

    • "ch"

    • "j"

  • elimination of the following phonological processes:

    • Voicing​

    • Stopping

    • Final Consonant Deletion

    • Fronting

    • Assimilation

    • Weak Syllable Deletion

    • Cluster Reduction

    • Gliding

5 - 6 years old

  • speech should be clear and easy to understand

  • some sounds might not be produced perfectly (e.g. "th" and "r" sounds)

6 years old and above

  • should be able to produce all speech sounds with no noticeable errors



0 - 3 months

  • recognises familiar voices

  • moves/turns/responds to voices

  • looks at a speakers mouth

  • stops what they're doing to listen to a voice

  • cooing/gurgling

  • differentiated cry (different cry for different wants)

  • cries to get attention

  • vocalises to express pleasure (e.g. when excited or playing)

  • can make single syllable sounds

3 - 6 months

  • anticipates feeding

  • recognises feeding apparatus (e.g. bottle, spoon)

  • recognises other people's faces

  • explores objects using mouth

  • can shift gaze from hand to object

  • starts babbling - mostly single syllable (e.g. "ba", "ma")

  • starts laughing

  • uses gestures to share intention

  • variation in pitch and inflection of babbling

  • joint attention emerges (sharing attention of an object with someone else)

6 - 9 months

  • recognises own name

  • responds to "no"

  • starts looking at pictures

  • tries to search for objects partially hidden from sight

  • bangs things/toys together to create sound

  • will wave to "bye bye"

  • can imitate some gestures

  • attempts to imitate the tone of adult speech

  • echolalia - repeating whatever is heard

  • use of jargon ('baby-speak', words that do not necessarily have any meaning)

  • multisyllabic, reduplicated babbling (e.g. "bababa", "mama")

9 - 12 months

  • can perform routine activities

  • begins to relate symbol to object

  • uses gesturing and vocalising to express needs and wants

  • variegated babbling - combination of different syllables

  • emergence of first true word (with meaning)

1 - 2 years old

  • can point to pictures in a book when you name them

  • can point to some body parts when asked

  • follows some simple instructions (e.g. "Pick up car", "Go to room") 

  • enjoys songs, rhymes and short stories

  • will ask to repeat the same song, rhyme or story multiple times

  • uses about 10 - 20 words, including names

  • forms 2 - word questions or phrases (e.g. "Where car?", "No doggie")

2 - 3 years old

  • identifies body parts well

  • understands simple time concepts (e.g. "tomorrow", "yesterday")

  • understands size (e.g. big vs little)

  • can match some colours

  • can tell people his/her name

  • can hold up fingers to tell age

  • has a ~450 word vocabulary

  • refers to self as 'me' rather than by name

  • mostly uses 1-3 word long sentences

  • can answer "Where" questions

  • tries to draw attention with words (e.g. "Look here!", "Wow!")

  • talks to other children instead of just adults

3 - 4 years old

  • has a ~1000 word vocabulary

  • can tell a story/event

  • sentence length increases to 4-5 words

  • can name some colours

  • knows own full name

  • knows details of own address

  • remembers several rhymes, songs

  • can follow more complex instructions (e.g. "Put the toy inside the big box")

4 - 5 years old

  • has a ~1500 word vocabulary

  • speaks clearly and fluently mostly

  • easy to understand what he/she is trying to say

  • understands more complicated time concepts (e.g. "At noon", "In the morning")

  • asks many questions with "Who?" and "Why?"

  • can use past tense correctly

  • can communicate with other adults and children easily



0 - 12 months

  • responds differently to familiar faces than to strangers

  • smiles spontaneously

  • shows awareness of own name

  • tries to imitate simple actions

1 - 2 years old

  • refers to self by name

  • plays by him/herself and would initiate own playing

  • can recognise him/herself in pictures

  • can recognise own reflection in mirror

  • tries to imitate adults' behaviours (e.g. cooking)

  • helps to keep things/put things away

2 - 3 years old

  • notices other children playing

  • would play near other children, though not necessarily together

  • might watch other children play, and join in briefly

  • knows gender identity (boy/girl)

  • able to do some 'pretend play' (e.g. pretending to cook, pretending that a lego block is food)

  • can participate in simple group activities 

  • possessive over toys/own items

3 - 4 years old

  • joins in freely with other children in play

  • interacts with other children

  • starts 'dramatic play' - games with assigned roles for each person (e.g. pretending to be a chef while others pretend to be customers)

  • shares toys

  • takes turns with some help

4 - 5 years old

  • plays and interacts actively with other children

  • dramatic play is more elaborate and closer to reality

  • interest in playing dress - up (e.g. superheroes)

5 - 6 years old

  • would have preferred friends

  • enjoys simple table games (e.g. board  games)

  • enjoys competition

  • can cooperate in play with other children (e.g. team games)

  • can play fairly and follow game rules

  • understands compromise

Social Skills


Every child is different and will develop at a different pace. A failure to reach certain milestones on schedule does not necessarily indicate a delay or a disorder. However whenever in doubt, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional such as a Speech Therapist or a Paediatrician.

Red flags that may indicate speech and language issues include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • no babbling by 9 months

  • no first words by 15 - 18 months

  • no use of consistent words by 18 - 24 months

  • not using different word combinations (e.g. 2 word sentences) by 2 - 2½ years old

  • pace of speech or language development slowing down

  • speech or language development suddenly stagnant

  • you're unable to understand your child's speech by age 2 - 2½ years old

  • strangers are not able to understand your child's speech by age 3 - 3½ years old

  • no interest in communicating or interacting with others

  • not responding to name when called

  • not responding consistently when spoken to (along with this, a failure to respond to loud noises can indicate possible hearing problems)

  • a sudden loss or regression of previously acquired speech and language skills

Other red flags that might seem unrelated include:

  • excessive drooling

  • problems sucking, chewing or swallowing

  • poor control and coordination of muscles around the mouth - lips, jaw and especially tongue

  • trouble learning and remembering (e.g. alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes)

Atypical Phonological Processes

Atypical phonological processes are types of errors in a child's speech that are considered abnormal. A child who exhibits atypical phonological processes should get an evaluation by a qualified speech therapist. The sign of any of these types of errors can indicate the presence of a speech sound disorder or other issues:

  • Initial consonant deletion (e.g. "dog" becomes "og")

  • Backing (e.g."toy" becomes "koy")

  • Glottal substitutions ("hammer" becomes "ha er")

  • Stopping of glides ("yay" becomes "day")

  • Errors with vowels 

If one or more of these red flags listed above are noted, it is advisable to get your child evaluated by a qualified speech therapist. Early intervention will help prevent further problems from surfacing in future, and provide your child with the support they need to equip them for independent learning as soon as possible.

Still unsure? Contact us now for enquiries or for a non-obligatory consultation and get a peace of mind.

Red flags
Atypical phonological processes
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