Speech and Language Development – Milestones and Red Flags


Speech and Language Development – Milestones and Red Flags

Speech and language development of your baby is an amazing process in which both you and your child have active roles. From the first cooing and agoo agoos to the first time you hear them say mama or baba, it is an exciting journey where you eagerly wait for the next milestone. Although every child has a different developmental pattern, it is natural for parents to worry if things are going on the right track or not. Here’s a basic list of things included in typical speech and language development.

Speech and Language Milestones


Child not engaging or socializing with you by one year

Us parents are the first playmates of our children and we constantly engage in different types of communications with our kids. Your child should be looking at you and smiling, making raspberry noises at you, babbling with you, making faces looking at you, handing over toys to you, pulling your hair to get your attention. All of these are examples of connections that your baby should be trying to make in his first year of life.


Child not making speech sounds by 18 months

Between 12 to 18 months most children should be experimenting with different words and speech sounds! They should be exploring amalgamations and combinations of distinct sounds including both consonants and vowels. Words like car, ball, mama, baba, papa are usually under their belts by now. Rich verbal utterances can even be jumbled words uttered by a child which has many consonants in it. Some examples –

  • Mumum or Doodoo for Milk
  • Wata or Mumm or Paa for Water


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Child unable to join 2 words together by 2 years

By the time a child is too, they should have a  50 word spoken vocabulary and should be joining two words to make simple sentences to express needs and wants. Some examples can be-

  • ‘mama come’
  • ‘play ball’
  • ‘give me’
  • ‘bath time’
  • ‘khaana hai’

A two year old should be able to understand way more than he can express too. They should be able to follow instructions like ‘pick up the book’, ‘ball de dain’ , ‘come in the kitchen’ etc.


Child’s words not intelligible/clear to strangers by 2.6 years

As children learn to speak sentences they are doing a lot of hard work. Speaking clearly requires immense coordination of the mouth muscles and hence many children are not very clear until they are older. However, if a child’s speech is not clear at all  and strangers find it impossible to understand strangers by 2 and a half years it might need some attention. A child’s speech may be understood by his parents or very close family members as parents learn it over time. Some common phonological errors that children do before the age of 3 are –

  • Deleting final consonant – Ba for Bat
  • Deleting unstressed syllable – Nana for Banana
  • Assimilating consonant – Tat for Cat
  • Repeating sounds – Tata for Table


  • 18 months: You should be able to understand your child 25 % of the times
  • 2 years: You should be able to understand your child 50 – 55 % of the times
  • 3 years: You should be able to understand your child 75 – 100 % of the times


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Child has difficulty imitating or producing different speech sounds by 2.6 – 4 years

There are some speech sounds which are easily audible, like p, b, m. They are produced by the lips and are easy to copy. On the other hand, there is some inaudible speech sounds like k, g , kh , h – which are produced deeper inside the mouth and can be difficult to imitate. Most children should be able to produce these various speech sounds by 4 years. Here are the sounds that are commonly mastered at different ages:

  • 3 years – p,b,m,h,n,w
  • 4 years – t,d, k, g f, d, y
  • 5 years – j, ch, sh
  • 6 years – l, v, s, ng
  • 7 years – th, z, r


As a parent your intuition matters a lot! If you feel that your child is lagging behind from peers and is showing any speech and language red flags, it is best to contact a Development Paediatrician Speech Language Therapist for a detailed assessment. Early intervention can do wonders for your child’s speech and confidence.

The ‘wait and watch approach’ is not suitable for Speech and Language development in children. Please do not hesitate in getting evaluations for something that can be easily remedied with a little help and  effort.



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