23 Effective Practices For Language Development Milestones From Birth To Three Years

The process of language development starts at a very early stage of human life. The cooing, babbling at the early stages of life are all part of the language development process. That’s why it becomes important for parents, caregivers and teachers to know the language development milestones from birth to three years, as it is the foundation phase for language development in a child.

American linguist Noam Chomsky opined that humans are born with language acquisition ‘devices’, which is why, biologically, every human being have the ability to understand language. Having said, the child being nurtured also plays an important role in achieving language development.

Research also has proved that even the fetus in the womb responds to the voices around, especially the mother and the father, hence assuring the fact that the capacity to learn language is inborn. In contrast to Chomsky’s views, the Russian Psychologist Lev Vygotsky theorised that language fundamentally develops from social interaction and is the greatest tool for communication.

According to Vygotsky language remains as silent inner speech at birth, then gradually transforms to private speech and finally blooms into social speech. There are various views of language development with both nature and nurture playing an equally important role.

In this article:

  1. Understand the developmental milestones of language from birth to three years
  2. Gain knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices involved for language development from birth to three years
  3. Apply the knowledge gained to real-life situations

Importance of Language Development in Early Childhood

Language is the most important and powerful tool for communication in humans. That’s why language development is a very important part of the social skills that a child has to acquire.

Language not only helps a child to communicate effectively, it also helps the child to relate to others. Any delay in language development can lead to frustration, low confidence and poor communication skills in a child.

Also Read : 9 Important Skills Required to Improve Speech in Toddlers

Language Development Milestones from Birth to 1 Year

During the first three months, the infant reacts to loud noises and cries, stares at faces, smiles and makes cooing sounds.

Around four to five months, infants can ascertain the direction from which voices are heard and also to other kinds of voices. Laughing, squealing, drooling, cooing in response to voices or cooing to toys are some of the ways they communicate.

By about six months, infants will respond when called by name and will closely observe lip movement of adults when they are talking. In addition to cooing, there is babbling as well, and resembles the sounds of vowels.

By nine months they are able to understand conversations and start trying to put two or three sounds together. They can also imitate reading books aloud and understand “No”.

By one year, they can call out for their father and mother, put two or three words together like “milk give”, “want doll” and so on. One year old toddlers can also imitate speech sounds, follow simple directions and are very attentive to conversations and sing-along rhymes.

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Newborns to 1 Year Olds

  • Since the vision of a newborn is blurred, it becomes important that adults interact with the child being physically very close to them.
  • Another reason why adults’ face must be very close to the infant is that they like staring at faces.
  • Never be quiet when the child is awake. Keep talking as they can pick the sounds of the language and will try imitate them.
  • Cooing and babbling is very common during the first six months of the baby’s life. So encourage more cooing and babbling by repeating whatever the child does.
  • Keep calling out to the child by names and introduce yourself as mom/dad (preferably in your language) and so on.
  • Introduce books as early as possible and read it to them, as it serves as a powerful tool for language development.
  • Show the child the real object and the same represented in pictures. This way, you help them differentiate the two. In the process, you introduce them how things look in 3 dimensions and 2 dimensions.

Language Development Milestones from 1 to 2 Years

At one year the toddler is able to understand nouns, but sense of classification is yet to develop. The toddler will be curious about things that are farther away. Will be able to point out and ask about it.

  • By 18 months, private speech is observed
  • The vocabulary capacity can be around 50 words (approximately)
  • Will be able to refer itself by its name
  • Will be able to identify parts of the body
  • Can point out to objects when asked
  • Might know many words but may find it difficult to pronounce certain words
  • Will be able to answer simple questions
  • Can make out the difference in the tone of the conversation and the mood
  • Can express emotions through words
  • By two years, the child is able to speak in longer sentences
  • Can sing rhymes
  • Can express needs clearly

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 1 to 2 Year Olds

  • Teach names of all the objects and things around
  • At this stage, children will use both gestures and single words to communicate
  • From this stage on, encourage the child to talk more and use fewer gestures
  • Storytelling, rhymes and dramatization are excellent tools to help them learn to talk
  • This is also a stage to sow the seeds to start learning another language as well
  • From now on, it is important to encourage the child to express emotions more through words

Also Read : 6 Most Common Causes of Speech and Language Disorders in Children

Language Development Milestones from 2 to 3 Years

  • The child is able to narrate simple stories
  • Understand relatively complex instructions
  • Understand simple questions with What, Where and Who
  • Vocabulary capacity is around thousand words (approximately)
  • Can definitely speak two to three sentences at a time
  • Grammatical errors are very common and a normal occurrence
  • Baby talk still exists
  • Child may put words together, which can appear as stammering or stuttering, but it is not so

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 2 to 3 Year Olds

  • Encourage narration and singing
  • Give simple topics for the child to talk
  • Make sure you satisfy their curiosity by answering their questions patiently
  • Question the children back to help enhance their ability to think and reason
  • Expose them to various concepts to increase their strength in vocabulary
  • This is the ideal time to introduce them to alphabets as part of their language development
  • Help them learn through sounds as it is highly effective
  • May gibberish now and then due to the excitement to express things fast
  • Encourage the child to talk slowly and clearly
  • Make the child understand and assure that you will hear patiently

Language development also highly related to social and emotional development as well. Only if a child is able to express well and communicate his/her thoughts and feelings, will it lead to forming good social relations and positive emotional development.


Parents, caretakers and teachers play a very important role in helping the child to meet their language development milestones from birth to three years. One has to be very conscious and aware that individual differences will exist as some pick up language fast and some relatively slowly.

It is crucial that parents should not compare their child’s progress with that of other children – be it for better or for worse. One should be very considerate and demonstrate understanding towards those children who take relatively more time to develop and learn.

Also Read : 7 Critical Early Signs of Speech Delay in Babies

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.