By Sam Edwards

Speech Pathologist at Young Allied Health

I remember years ago, going to my friend’s baby shower and one of the questions someone asked her was “what is the thing that you are most looking forward to as the baby grows up?” She was a first time mum, and replied “I can’t wait until they start talking and all the communication development!”

As a speech pathologist, I was so excited by her answer and yes, that is one of the most exciting things to look forward to as a new mum. The little interactions that you have with your toddler as they are learning language is so special, but it really had me thinking…what does it look like when this doesn’t happen?


I thought I would discuss some typical communication milestones, as it is an area that we get asked about a whole lot. Here is a summary of what typical communication development looks like and some red flags.


0-12 months

In their first 12 months, babies develop many of the foundations that support speech and language development. During the first 12 months, we like to see babies developing these foundational skills such as eye contact, joint attention, and babbling. During the first 3 years of life, babies and toddlers will continue to develop these skills at a really fast rate.


12-18 months

At this age, we may see our toddlers beginning to say their first words with meaning. For example, when your child is saying “mum, mum”, they are actually calling for mum. During the next few months, our children will continue to add new words to their vocabulary. They will understand more than they can say and follow simple directions too – even though they won’t always want to follow them when you say “no, don’t pull the cat’s tail!”


18 months to 2 years

In this second year of life, our toddler’s vocabulary has grown a whole heap and they will start to put two words together to make some short sentences. They will understand much of what you say and you will be able to understand (sometimes!) what they are saying to you. Being face to face when communicating is important and will continue to encourage your child to have some lovely communication exchanges with you.


By this age, a referral to your GP or paedatrician is valid if your child does not have some words, although language development does vary.


2 years to 3 years

Our toddlers are continuing to amaze us with their language skills at this age, by speaking in longer and more complex sentences. In turn, you will notice their speech improving too. As your house becomes filled with more noise, you may notice your child playing and talking at the same time too. People who aren’t close family members or friends should be understanding most of what your child says by the time they are three.


3 years to 5 years

As our children move into kindy and onto prep, their language explodes into more abstract and more complex conversations. Their minds are constantly thinking and learning and you may hear things like “am I going to turn into a watermelon because I ate the seed?”

They will want to talk about a wide range of topics too, while their vocabulary continues to grow. You may also notice some understanding of basic grammar skills with words popping up in their sentences like ‘if’, ‘so’, or ‘when’ and use of pronouns like ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’. Strap yourself in for some entertaining stories as they develop their narrative skills.


5 years to 8 years

So, let’s face it, our kids might be pretty much self-sufficient now! Job done.

During these early school years, your child will learn more and more words and start to understand the sounds within language work together. They will become better storytellers (these stories may be true or untrue…) as they use different types of sentences and explore how to use these in various ways. They will of course too, share their ideas and opinions (send help now!)

By 8 years old, your child should be able to have adult-like conversations.


Through all these developmental milestones at any and every age, my number one piece of advice to parents is to seek help if you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s development. When it comes to language development in particular, don’t just “wait and see”, come and see us.