Speech and language development in babies and children
Speech and language are the tools humans use to communicate and share thoughts, ideas, and emotions. For babies and children, they come to know these tools and develop at a varying rate.
Language differs from speech in that language is the set of rules, shared by the individuals who are communicating, that allows them to exchange those thoughts, ideas, or emotions. Speech is talking, one way that a language can be expressed. Language may also be expressed through writing or things like signing.
The most intensive period of speech and language development for humans is during the first three years of life, a period when the brain is developing and maturing. These skills appear to develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.
There is increasing evidence suggesting that there are “critical periods” for speech and language development in infants and young children. This means that the developing brain is best able to absorb a language, any language, during this period.
An infant's first ability to express his needs begins with crying during the first days of life. As jaw and mouth mechanisms develop, he is gradually able to make and mimic sounds and words. By eighteen months, he should have a vocabulary of at least eight to 10 words. He will eventually be able to express his needs, desires and thoughts as he grasps the concept of word and object association.
Typical speech and language skills in childhood development
- Vocalise with intonation.
- Respond to her name.
- Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning her head and eyes.
- Uses one or more words with meaning - often mama or dada.
- Understands simple instructions, such as bye-bye or bed.
- Is aware of the social value of speech.
- May have a vocabulary of between five to 20 words
- May repeat a word over and over again, often called echolalia
- Is able to follow simple commands
- Can name familiar objects.
- Combines words into a short sentence.
- The majority of what they say will be intelligible and the vocabulary might be 150-300 words.
- Rhythm and fluency of speech won't be great - neither will their volume and pitch.
- Can use pronouns correctly - I, me, you, although me and I are often confused.
- Is using some plurals and past tenses.
- Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name.
- Handles three word sentences easily.
- Has a vocabulary of 900-1000 words.
- About 90% of what child says should be intelligible.
- Verbs begin to dominate the speech.
- Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities.
- Should be able to state her sex, name, age.
- Should not be expected to answer all questions even though she understands.
By 5 years
- Can use many descriptive words spontaneously - both adjectives and adverbs.
- Knows common opposites: big-little, hard-soft, heave-light, etc.
- Has number concepts of four or more.
- Can count to ten.
- Speech should be completely intelligible, in spite of articulation problems.
- Should know his age.
- Should have simple time concepts: morning, afternoon, night, day, later, after, while.
- Should be using fairly long sentences and should use some compound and some complex sentences.
- Speech on the whole should be grammatically correct.
By six years
- She will have mastered tricky consonants such as: f, v, sh, zh, th, l.
- Speech should be completely intelligible and socially useful.
- Should be able to tell one a rather connected story about a picture, seeing relationships.
- Between objects and happenings.
By seven years
- Should have mastered consonants like s-z, r, voiceless th, ch, wh, and the soft g - as in George.
- Should understand complex opposites like: girl-boy, man-woman, flies-swims, blunt-sharp short-long, sweet-sour.
- Understands such terms as: alike, different, beginning, end, etc.
- Should be able to tell time to the quarter hour.
- Should be able to do simple reading and to write or print many words.
By eight years
- Can relate rather involved accounts of events, many of which occurred at some time in the past.
- Complex and compound sentences should be used easily.
- Should be few lapses in grammatical constrictions.
- All speech sounds, including consonant blends should be established.
More preschooler development articles:
- Language development in 3–4 year olds
- Your 3–4 year old’s physical development
- 3–4 year old social and emotional development
- How your 3–4 year old understands the world
- Speech and language development in 4–5 year olds
- Your 4–5 year old’s physical development
- 4-5 year old social and emotional development
- How your 4-5 year old understands the world
- Preschool stages of play
- Your child's development milestones
- Physical development in babies and children
- How your kids develop cognitively
- Social and emotional development in children
- How speech and language develops in kids
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- Ideas for fun at home with your preschooler
- All about how preschoolers learn
- What to expect from preschooler manners
- Preschool health and nutrition
- Heading out and about with preschoolers
- Recipe ideas to tempt preschool-aged kids
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- All about sleep and rest for preschoolers
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