Baby Hints & Tips

Speech Milestones: Two Year Olds

speech milestones age 2You never know what the day will bring when there is a two year old around. Cheeky grins and laughs one minute, flailing limbs and screaming the next. Ah yes, good times!

Even though this stage often comes with a warning – “Beware the terrible two’s!” – there’s more happening than just tantrums. Two year olds are changing and learning more and more everyday. Whilst we know that all children are different and will generally develop at their own pace, as parents we also want to make sure that they are progressing along the right track. The problem is, once you’ve ticked off all of the “firsts” it can become harder to know just what the “right track” is.

When it comes to communication development for instance, most parents know to expect their child’s first word around the age of 12 months (although anywhere within the range of 8 – 16 months is considered normal). What happens next however is a bit more of a mystery.

Following your child’s first birthday, their communication skills continue to develop in leaps and bounds. After their first words a toddler’s vocabulary usually grows quite rapidly, with most using approximately 50 words by 18 months. This leads to the next big milestone of combining two words together, such as “more milk” or “car gone”. Clearly it doesn’t stop there…

By your child’s 2nd birthday they should be able to:

  • Use at least 50 different words
  • Use two word phrases frequently and 3 word phrases occasionally
  • Understand and use new words regularly
  • Refer to themself by name
  • Understand 2 part instructions (g. Get your shoes and sit down)
  • Identify pictures when named
  • Use early pronouns occasionally such as mine, me, you

By 2 and a half a child should be able to:

  • Use 3 word sentences frequently
  • Use 2 different sentence types such as commands (g. Baby sit down!) and questions (e.g. Doggie gone?)
  • Consistently refer to themself using a pronoun such as I, me, my, mine
  • Answer simple what, where and who questions about objects and people nearby
  • Understand size concepts such as big/little
  • Understand location concepts such as, inside, under, on top

By your child’s 3rd birthday they should be able to:

  • Speak in 3-5 word sentences
  • Tell you if they are hot/cold, hungry/thirsty, tired or sick
  • Talk to you about things that happened when you were not with them
  • Use grammatical markers such as plurals (cats, buses), prepositions (in, on) and negatives (not)
  • Use different verb forms e.g. jump, jumped, jumping
  • Tell you their first and last name and gender when asked
  • Understand and answer yes/no questions correctly
  • Follow instructions with 3 parts
  • Identify parts of an object (g. car = wheels, doors, windows, lights, horn)
  • Respond to what, where and who questions about people and objects that are not present
  • Show interest in how and why things work (Why does this go fast?, How do you turn it on?)

As far as speech sounds go, it is normal for two year olds to still make lots of errors. For example, saying “yeyo” for “yellow” and “pane” for “plane”. Overall, we would expect a two year old to be understood by a stranger approximately 50% of the time, with that figure increasing to 75% by the time they are three.

If you are worried…

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s communication skills the best thing you can do is ask a speech pathologist for advice. Depending on your state and location you may be able to access public health speech pathology services or services provided through private practice.

Keep in mind that well meaning family and friends often tell concerned parents not to worry because, “they’ll talk when they are ready”, “boys always talk later than girls”, “it’s because she’s the youngest”, “it’s because you’re using two languages” etc. Many of these notions are myths! Early intervention is key when it comes to communication development. If you are concerned, trust your instincts and don’t wait.

About the author: Clare Francis is a paediatric speech pathologist from Sydney and “more importantly” a mum of two wonderful (and crazy) kids! She graduated from University of Sydney and worked in both the disability and community health sectors. Wanting to have a better family and work balance Clare opened her own private practice and also blogs at Modern Speechie. Clare is passionate about sharing information and ideas about speech and language development with the aim to help children be the best communicators they can be! You can also follow The Modern Speechie on Facebook.


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