The first 3 years of your child’s life are filled with rapid language development and learning. Keep an eye on how he’s doing. Be aware of the progress he’s making, and check from time to time that he’s moving forward.
Use this checklist to make sure your child’s language skills keep developing in line with other children of his age. If you’re worried about his progress, talk to your healthcare practitioner, whether it’s a health visitor or a GP. They should refer you to a speech and language therapist who can carry out an assessment to see how your child is getting on, looking in detail at his progress.
Up to one in 10 children have difficulty with learning language skills, and this can cause problems. Children with language problems find it harder to make friends, to learn to read and to make the most of their education. Use your child’s early years to give him a head start.
At 3 months
- Loud noises startle your child.
- He gives his first social smiles, especially when he hears his mother’s voice. These are ‘real’ smiles, with eye contact that sets them apart from the smiles of a tiny baby.
- He copies some of the sounds you make.
- He turns when he hears a noise.
- He imitates some of your facial movements, such as sticking out his tongue when he sees yours. This reaction takes a few seconds, so give him plenty of time.
At 6 months
- He turns when you say his name, recognising it.
- He watches your face intently when you talk to him.
- He makes many different sounds, not all of them recognisable as sounds from English.
- He puts a series of sounds together as ‘babble’.
- He recognises emotions from your tone of voice, and may respond when you say ‘no’.
- He shouts, gurgles and coos, enjoying his own noises.
At 1 year
- He may become clingy and cry for his parents when they leave, as he recognises they are different from strangers and are important to him.
- He finds hidden objects, when he’s seen you hide them, even when they’re completely out of sight.
- He recognises a picture of an object and looks at it when you say its name.
- He clearly understands and responds to ‘no’.
- He uses simple gestures, such as shaking his head or waving “bye-bye”.
- He may say ‘da da’ or “ma ma” with meaning.
- He may copy words you say.
At 2 years
- He concentrates hard on what he’s doing and ignores everything else.
- He becomes excited to be with other children.
- He tries pretend play.
- He points to named objects.
- He says several words and 2 word phrases.
- He follows instructions of 2-3 words.
- He knows the names of body parts and many objects.
At 3 years
- He listens to what you say, but is easily distracted.
- He starts to take turns in games.
- He separates from his parents without becoming too disturbed.
- He enjoys routine and becomes upset at sudden changes.
- He enjoys pretend play.
- He knows dozens of words for common objects.
- He uses 3-4 word sentences, but with immature grammar.
- He can say his own name.
- Many of his words are understandable, but he makes plenty of mistakes.
At 4 years
- He stops what he’s doing to listen to what you say.
- He plays cooperatively with other children.
- He becomes far more independent.
- He knows some colours and numbers.
- He can retell parts of a story.
- He speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand him.
- He uses 4-5 word sentences, though still makes grammar errors.
At 5 years
- He can listen while he carries on with his activity.
- He enjoys his friends and copies their behaviour.
- He sings and dances.
- He understands some time concepts.
- He uses a range of past and future tenses.
- He can tell stories.
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