Child Language Development: Things You Must Know

Child language development starts early. It begins with gestures and vocalization, evolving through babbling and imitation of sounds, and nonsense syllables turn into meaningful words. With brain development facilitating the ability to express, your child masters language skills through social interaction and increased understanding.

Parents can help child language development

Child language development is one of the most amazing things to observe. The sweet and cute voice of a child that holds the attraction for everyone starts with preverbal communications. It matures with the development of the brain, allowing for better grasping and understanding. As a parent, you can lend a helping hand by identifying development delays early on and boosting skills by talking and reading.

How Does a Child Language Development Take Place?

Child language development refers to the growth of verbal communication and learning ability in children, allowing them to speak words. It has two important components – speech and language. Speech is the physical act of talking or, in short, verbal communication. Language development indicates the growing capability to understand and use words correctly in the right context and tense to express thoughts and feelings.

Speech development begins with vocalization and sounds. For language, the early stage is traced to gestures of the baby. With growth, a child replaces preverbal communication with nonsense syllables, where she makes different types of speech sounds (phonology stage). Next, she learns vocabulary through imitation and expresses herself using single words (semantic stage).

Then comes the grammar development stage. She is able to arrange words in sentences (syntax) and then learns to use grammatical markers. Finally, she acquires the capacity to use language for varied purposes and responses with the ability to follow norms perfectly.

When Do Most Children Start Talking?

Learning skills develop during the prenatal stage. When in the womb, a child starts responding to sounds and words. After birth, she starts with sounds and gestures to communicate. Cooing is visible in 2 months while babbling, such as mama, dada, etc., starts around the 6th month. By the 10th month, the child is able to distinguish between and imitate speech sounds.

The capacity to express something in single words develops and strengthens in the first year. Many 1-year-old children are able to speak gibberish. They can understand and speak more words in the next six months and can start talking using multiple words when they turn 2 years.

The child language development is rapid in girls compared to boys. There is also individual development variation. One child acquires speaking and learning skills faster than the other.

What Are General Child Language Development Milestones?

  • 0-6 months: Vocalization with intonation, gestures of familiar voices, cooing, and laughing.
  • 6-12 months: Jargon phase, use of babbling and gestures to communicate, words begin to form, use one or more words indicating a certain thing, ability to understand simple instructions, strings of sounds resembling talking.
  • 12-18 months: Ability to make one-word utterances; better learning and understanding of words.
  • 18 months to 2 years: Growing vocabulary, improvement in talking with multiple words, better understanding and improvement in speaking at least 50 words.
  • 2-3 years: Child language development enters a new arena with the ability to peak longer and complex sentences, greater variety in words, more accurate use of words, clarity in voice and intelligible expression.
  • 3-4 years: Can tell names of animals, fruits, and objects, ability to speak at least four prepositions, can identify at least two colors, repeat words of four syllables, ability to play and talk simultaneously, well-established pronunciation of vowels.
  • 4-5 years: Ability to converse on different topics, accurate use of grammar and compliance to basic tense rules, trying with complex sentences, ability to use possessives, joint sentences, and double negatives, starts using the third person, is able to answer questions starting with who, when , how, and which and tell full names, say larger sentences, knows about 1,000 words, and can express feelings.
  • 5-7 years: Can tell completely intelligible and socially useful sentences, follow grammar rules correctly, and is able to tell stories or establish relations between objects when showed pictures.
  • 6-7 years: Mastery over consonants, is able to decipher opposites, can write and read.
  • 7-8 years: Is able to read stories, adjust speech and language according to the audience, learn from personal reading, acquires descriptive language skills to generate other’s interest in her words, and words are in sync with the body language.
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What are reasons behind child language development delays?

A host of problems contribute to child language development delays. These may include,

  • Developmental disorders, such as autism, down syndrome
  • Negligence of post-natal care leading shunted development
  • Genetics or family history
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Premature birth
  • Post-natal disorders
  • Birth deformities
  • Hearing loss
  • The environment
  • Bilingual parents
  • Sleep problems

What Are The Most Noticeable Child Language Development Delays?

Check for missed child language development milestones corresponding to your child’s age. If your child has following symptoms, she may have delayed speech and language development.

  • At 12 months: Inability of a child to use sounds, gestures, or single words for communication. Unable to wave hand to say bye-bye or imitate your words. Continues to do gestures and no vocalization after a year.
  • 12 to 30 months: Is not able to say combination words. Use less than 50 words. Failure to speak words spontaneously. Is unable to comprehend your easy directions or questions. Your child is only able to imitate your words or repeat a few words.

Poor eye contact, inability to understand or pronounce words, inability to understand or respond to directions, and trouble in socialization are also indications of developmental delays.

What Are Normal Mistakes Not Linked to Child Language Development Delays?

If your child makes the following mistakes while speaking, it should be considered normal mistakes unconnected to child language development delays.

  • Grammatical or gender errors before she turns 3 years
  • Mispronunciation of long, complex words until 3 years of age
  • Incorrect pronouncing of letters, such as “wight” instead of “right”, “dat” instead of “that”, until 3 years
  • Uncomfortable with pronouncing sounds of certain letters, such as “m,” “p,” “b,” “w,” “th,” “r,” and “h” till 5 years.

Can Child Language Development Delays Be Overturned?

Early detection of developmental delays can help you identify the cause and take immediate action to make up for the missing milestones. When the reason is physical deformities or medical issues, you can seek help of physicians and experts.

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If the cause behind child language development delay is unclear, you may step up primary care and consult speech therapists. You can also use various ways to stimulate speech and language in your child.

What You Should Not Do?

  • Don’t wait too long if you can see symptoms of child language development delays. Early detection must be followed by immediate action.
  • Avoid criticizing the child for speech articulation. It will make her more diffident to talk to. It is advisable to teach her correct pronunciation and reward her pronouncing words correctly.
  • Don’t let your child remain glued to television and computers, as these have no interactive benefit to stimulate language development in children. Use better responsive solutions to help your child learn and speech.

How Can Parents Help Children Overcome Language Development Delays?

  • Recognize the problem and find out solutions at different levels, such as medical help, expert support, therapist consultation, family help, and parental guidance.
  • Give your child a perfect home environment to learn the spoken language. It is seen that a child incessantly subject to speech and language learns skills faster.
  • Talk to your child as much as you can. Interactive language methods, such as reading, singing, storytelling, chatting, teaching using colorful objects, and talking in varied tones, may also help.
  • Ask your child questions about what she is doing, what she wants, what she loves to eat, or what she loves to play with. These questions stimulate thinking and learning process in the mind of the child.
  • Tell stories to your child. Ask her about different characters in the story and tell her to relate it to different real-life objects. Let them guess, comprehend, point out, describe, or anticipate.
  • Take steps to generate curiosity in your child and explain to her with added information.
  • Show your child pictures, colors, and objects and ask her to point to each with names or description.
  • Make conversations with school-age children a daily affair. Use every family meeting, even dinners, to ensure that the child interacts with all family members. Encourage her to read and question.
  • If you child seems to be interested in a specific object, talk to her about that. Show and explain her more about that and ask to imitate your words.
  • Take your child on field trips to places, such as zoo, museum, or aquarium. Explain them about various animals there. This makes language learning fun and easy for children to grasp.
Ravneet Kaur
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Ravneet Kaur

Ravneet is a proficient author on mindful parenting, child psychology, and pregnancy-related issues. Her practical writing focuses on helping parents develop a compassionate understanding of child behavior and build strong family bonds. She also researches and writes on women’s health, pregnancy problems, relationship issues, teens, and child development and education.
Ravneet also blogs at
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