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Communication Milestones

Every child learns at their own pace. Most children will reach speech, language and communication milestones in their own time. However knowing roughly what to expect and when can be helpful. It can often reassure us our child is on track. It can also help parents and carers know if they should seek advice and support.

These skills are learnt stage by stage and there are many ways to support this development.


  • Babies are born able to communicate. This is more than being able to talk. The first 12 months is when babies learn to make and respond to sounds. To begin with they may cry a lot as carers are still getting used to the earlier ‘cues’ babies use to tell us their needs.

    As time goes by babies often begin to cry less as they become confident that their carers understand them and their needs will be met. 

    0 - 4 months

    • Babies will begin to make eye contact and look at you.
    • They will start to turn towards noises and voices – they may quieten when they hear you coming.
    • You will start to get smiles in response to your smiling and chatting
    • As time passes they will begin to make more and more different sounds cooing and squealing – sometimes surprising themselves with the noises they can make.

    4 - 6 months

    • Babies will get to know the sound of their name.
    • They will react to different tones of voice.

    Around 8 months

    • Babies will point and reach to let you know what they are interested in.

    Around 10 months

    • Babies will often be babbling – putting two noises together like ‘dada’ or ‘gaga’ they will really enjoy these noises and will use different sounds and volumes.

    Around 12 months

    • You will begin to notice there are about ten words they understand.
    • They will follow some simple instructions like; ‘give to daddy’ or ‘come here’ – when they are in the mood!
    • As they reach their first birthday, babies may be using a few words – usually for someone or something very familiar.

    While they are learning these skills, the response they get from caregivers will make all the difference. When parents and carers show interest and praise the sounds, actions and words babies try out it will motivate them to try more.


  • 12 months - 18 months

    • They will continue to point and reach, and there will be lots of babbling. This often sounds like a ‘real’ conversation and your baby will enjoy it if you pretend you know what they are saying and join in with them.
    • Your baby will understand more and more of what you are saying.
    • They will respond to their name and follow simple instructions like 'get teddy' or 'throw ball'.

    18 months - 2 years

    • They will understand around 50 words including some body parts.
    • Their speech will become clearer to you over time.
    • They begin to put some words together like ‘all gone’ or ‘Daddy’s car’.

  • Between 2 - 3 years

    • They may know the names of four or more parts of their body.
    • They will know about 50 to 200 words.
    • They will be understanding more and be trying out new words.
    • They will be able to respond to questions like ‘ where is your coat?’ and follow instructions like ‘please find your shoes’.
    • You might notice they are putting more words together ‘milk all gone’ or ‘Mummy’s big bag’. They will understand words like ‘on’ and ‘in’.
    • At around this age children are more easily understood by people other than their family.
  • Between 3 - 4 years 

    • Children will speak in short sentences of 4-5 words.
    • Be able to tell simple stories.
    • Ask lots of questions. ‘Why’ becomes a favourite word. This is an important way children find out and understand more about the world around them.
    • They may know some colours and shapes and will enjoy showing what they know.
    • Children will enjoy ‘pretending’ when they play. They enjoy ‘acting out’ the things they see and hear happening around them.
    • They are able to understand 2 part questions or instructions such as, “Put the book in the bag and find your shoes please.”
    • Speech is clear enough to be understood most of the time by familiar people. You shouldn’t worry if they still muddle some sounds.

    Playing, reading, chatting with parents and carers will help your child gain more and more words, understanding and confidence in speech and communication.

    Uninterrupted time spent being with and talking to your child has many benefits and is important through out their whole childhood. It builds self esteem and social skills helping your child to become a confident communicator.

  • Firstly remember that each child will develop at their own pace. Spend as much time as you can playing and talking with your child without distractions – even 5 minutes here and there adds up and can make a big difference.

    If your child attends nursery or a registered childminder, talk to them about your worries – they will be able to work with you to build your child’s skills and advise on any next steps needed.

    Try this communication tool - you can identify which stage your child is at and try some of the activities and ideas to support your child's communication development.

    You can also contact our Just One Number team on the details below to talk through your concerns. The team may ask about your child's hearing and vision to be sure this is not getting in the way of their communication skill development.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 


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