Skip to main content
Mississippi Bend AEA
Main Content


About normal language development.

Language includes a child's ability to understand the speech of others and to express his thoughts and ideas. No two children are alike. Each differs in his rate and pattern of growth. Though growth may be uneven, it follows an orderly sequence. This listing summarizes some very general guidelines for normal language development.

0 - 1 Year

      Echoes or immitates a number of syllables and sounds
      Combines syllables
      Varies cry to indicate needs
      Vocalizes for social reasons
      Responds to a familiar name or "no-no"
      Waves bye-bye or patty-cakes when asked

1 - 2 Years

      Uses single words like "mama", "dada", "kitty",
      Uses exclamatory expressions like "oh-oh"
      Gestures to indicate wants
      Follows simple directions
      Locates objects when named
      Identifies three body parts when named

2 - 3 Years

      Uses vocabulary of 300 - 600 words
      Uses 2 - 3 word sentences
      Uses language to express wants (ex. "I want cookie")
      Asks for "more"
      Asks questions like "what’s that?"
      Demands to do things by himself

3 - 4 Years

      Uses vocabulary of about 900 words
      Uses 3 to 4 word sentences
      Uses language to get information and control others (ex. "Give me a cookie")
      Asks many questions
      Gets confused by time words like "yesterday", "soon"
      May experience normal nonfluency
      Average listener understands his speech

4 -5 Years

      Uses vocabulary of about 1500 words
      Uses 4 to 5 word sentences
      Asks "who" and "why" questions
      Relates experiences in a logical order
      Uses describing words like colors, "big", "fat"

Beyond 5 Years

      Uses vocabulary of 3000 - 7000 words
      Uses 6 to 7 word sentences
      Uses language for social reasons "I want to play", "Leave me
      alone", "I got a new bike"
      Speaks with correct grammar and word endings
      Tells simple stories
      Language is becoming adult-like

Beyond 8 Years

      Uses more complex adult-like language
      Gives logical solutions to problems like "What if..."
      Understands humor-jokes, riddles
      Uses and understands some idioms like "yelled his head off"

Source of Information:

Arnold Gesell, The First Five Years of Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1940)
Barbara S. Wood, Children and Communication: Verbal and Nonverbal Language Development (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1976)
Staff of Developmental Language and Speech Center, Teach Your Child to Talk (Grand Rapids, Michigan)


Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency "Helping Schools Help Children"


For more information, contact the Mississippi Bend Area Education Area Education Agency center nearest you.

Bettendorf Service Center
729 - 21st Street
Bettendorf, IA 52722
(563) 359-1371

2001 Manufacturing Court
Clinton, IA 52732
Phone: (563) 242-6454
(563) 242-6468

Muscatine Service Center
1422 Houser Street
Muscatine, IA 52761
(563) 263-8476

© 2021 Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency