Communication Developmental Stages of Infants and Toddlers

This page gives an outline of the communication developmental stages of infants and toddlers. Parents often want to know what to expect. Communication is so important - actual speech is just part of communication, as you will see.

To read about developmental stages of all areas including motor, manipulation, language and social, click here

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3 months of age

Your baby should:

  • be vocalising -having baby conversations with you

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6 months of age

Your baby should:

  • be babbling using vowel sounds, eg. "goo", "ga"
  • be imitating sounds
  • be able to laugh out loud

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9 months of age

Your baby should:

  • be smiling and laughing at you
  • be turning to sounds
  • be reaching for objects he wants
  • be using his voice to get attention

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12 months of age

If following the normal speech developmental stages of infants, your baby should:

  • respond to his own name
  • use sounds and even a few understandable words
  • be able to play peek-a-boo and other games
  • be able to use gestures like pointing
  • be able to understand simple directions
  • be able to let you know what he wants and what he doesn't want!
  • be showing you things that interest him

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15 months of age

Now your toddler should:

  • be using lots of gestures and sounds
  • be using some words to communicate
  • be able to understand familiar words and phrases, like "where's daddy?" or "get your shoes"
  • be able to play with a variety of toys, like blocks, dolls, cars, teddy bears etc

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18 months of age

Your toddler should:

  • use at least 10 words
  • be able to make at least 5 different consonant sounds - for example: ba,ca,da,ga,la,ma,na,sha,ta,wa,ya
  • be able to identify body parts when asked- eg. "show me your nose"
  • imitate words
  • use symbolic play - so pretend to feed a doll

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21 months of age

Now, if following the normal speech developmental stages of infants and toddlers, your toddler should:

  • use at least 25 different words
  • be learning new words every week
  • be able to identify several objects when named - eg. "where is the bike?"

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24 months of age

Your toddler should:

  • use at least 50 words
  • be putting 2 words together - eg. "daddy home", "doggie gone"
  • be able to recognise pictures in books
  • be able to listen to simple stories

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Concerns about Communication?

If your child is not following the normal speech developmental stages of infants and toddlers, there may be a problem, such as:

  • Hearing problem - see your doctor for formal hearing tests if you think your child can't hear
  • Communication Disorder - such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Children with these disorders usually fail to interact appropriately with others. To read more about communication disorders in young children, click here.

    If your child is between 18 and 24 months of age and you are concerned about autism, ask your doctor to do the CHAT test on your child
  • Developmental Delay - your child will usually be slow in other areas of development as well

However, most children I see where there is concern regarding speech are entirely normal.

If your child is slow to use words, but has good understanding and can make himself understood (so can get what he wants, by gestures or sounds), he is most likely normal and will speak normally in time.

Communication is more than just expressed words.

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When should I see my doctor about communication development concerns?

See your doctor if your child displays any of the following red flags for communication developmental stages of infants or toddlers:

  • Your baby at the age of 6 weeks does not respond to sound
  • You are concerned at any age that your child does not hear properly
  • Your baby at the age of 6 months is not babbling or showing interest in what is happening around him
  • Your toddler of 15 months is not pointing to show and share interest in his environment
  • Your toddler of 3 years is unable to make his needs known

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Baby sign Language

Many parents use Baby Sign Language to communicate with their children - it is effective and allows many parents the ability to know exactly what their child wants even before they can speak. For more information on suitable resources, Click Here!


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To go to the top of the Speech Developmental Stages of Infants and Toddlers page, click here

To go to the Development page, click here

To go to the First Words website, click here - This is a site from the Department of Communication Disorders at Florida State University - opens in a new window

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 28 May 2011

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