Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Developmental Milestones

Age

Skill / Category

Attributes

Birth to Three Months

Listening

  • From birth, enjoys listening to the voices of caregivers

  • Can discriminate between speech sounds


Speaking

  • For first two months, vocalizations are primarily reflex reactions to discomfort – crying and fussing - and sounds related to feeding and breathing - coughing, burping, swallowing, and sneezing

  • By 1 month, may approximate imitations of a caregiver’s pitch and duration of speech sounds; engages in back and forth exchanges with caregivers

  • By 2 months, mouth movements are more distinct. May begin to make some cooing and gooing sounds

  • By 3 months, crying less frequent; sustained laughter and infant chuckles appear


Four to Six Months

Listening

  • Continues to prefer the sound of “baby talk”

  • Around 4 months, stops making sounds to listen to a caregiver’s voice, responds differently to angry and friendly voices, and starts to take turns making sounds with caregivers and is able to imitate a caregiver’s tone of voice

  • At 5 months, responds to his or her name


Speaking

  • Gradually develops more control over voice

  • Cries less and begins to make cooing, laughing, and more speech-like sounds

  • Continues to make “cooing” and “gooing” sounds

  • Around 4 months, starts to take turns making sounds with caregivers and is able to imitate a caregiver’s tone of voice

  • At 5 months, imitates some vowel sounds as well as sounds of a different pitch, and uses his or her voice to express different emotions

  • By 6 months, may have enough lip control to produce lip sounds such as “p”, “b” and “m”, and may begin to produce strings of sounds (e.g., “muh-muh-muh”) which are known as “babbling”


Seven to Nine Months

Listening

  • Shows he or she is listening by responding more consistently to what caregivers say

  • Retains the ability to discriminate between sounds used in different languages but is gradually losing that ability with exposure to their home language(s)

  • Becomes able to break the speech he or she hears down into meaningful pieces

  • At 8 months, typically listens more to single words than to full sentences

  • By 9 months, may respond to his or her name and “no”, responds to some caregiver requests

Speaking

  • Continues to express different emotions and meanings with the sound of his or her voice

  • Around 7 months, begins to “babble” by repeating a single syllable, such as “ma-ma-ma-ma” to explore his or her own voice or when playing with objects.

  • At 8 months, uses babbling in imitation games with caregivers, may begin babbling strings of different syllables, like “bagidabu”, and may produce long strings of speech that cannot be understood, a normal development known as “jargon” speech.

  • By 9 months, starts to add vocalizations to gestures – such as saying “ee-ee” when raising arms to be picked up by a caregiver


Ten to Twelve Months

Listening

  • Responds to a wider variety of words including his or her own name and the word “no”

  • Can no longer discriminate between sounds that are not meaningful in his or her home language(s)

  • Around 10 months, obeys some commands such as “wave bye-bye”

  • By 11 months, responds to about 50 words (names of people and objects and words from games and routines) and to about half of caregiver requests

  • At 12 months, continues to follow simple directions best when a caregiver acts out the desired response

Speaking

  • Repeats single syllables (e.g., buh-buh-buh) and says strings of different syllables (e.g., ma-ba-da)

  • May develop “protowords” or vocalizations that are always used in the same situations and that sound the same each time they are produced but do NOT sound like adult words (e.g., saying “bini” for “blanket”)

  • Around 10 months, may try to imitate adult vocalizations, but can only imitate those sounds he or she can produce

  • By 11 months, can imitate the pitch changes and rhythms of caregiver speech, as well as facial expressions and is likely able to produce p, b, t, d, k, g, m, n, w, y, s, and h sounds if in an English-speaking home

  • At 12 months, can imitate caregiver speech even when he or she cannot see caregiver and has likely produced his or her first adult-like word


Twelve to Twenty Four Months

Listening

  • Understands more words than he or she can say

  • Responds more often and more correctly to a wider variety of words


Speaking

    • By 12 months, typically says first word

    • Understand more words than he or she can say

    • Begins using word order as a way to understand longer sentences

  • Uses words to introduce and maintain topics and to request information, predict, describe, and socialize with others

  • Uses real words, as well as babbling, jargon, and protowords throughout second year

  • Begins putting two and three words together in short “sentences”

  • Uses primarily content words so speech tends to sound like it is “telegraphic” (e.g., Daddy home)

  • Uses more nouns and verbs

  • Says mostly one to two syllable words with simple syllable shapes

  • At 24 months, uses about 70 words

Knowledge of Language and Conversation Skills

    • Begins to understand why different things can have the same label (e.g., horses, cows, tigers, and dogs can all be called ‘animals’ because they are all members of that category)

    • Begins to develop his or her conversational skills

  • Learning that people take turns in conversations

  • Becoming increasingly successful at introducing new topics

  • Learning that a pause in conversation indicates that it is time to take their turn

  • Beginning to use strategies to repair conversational breakdowns

  • using combinations of gestures, imitation, and words to direct the course of interactions


Twenty-Four to Thirty-Six Months

Listening

  • Understands and uses an ever-increasing number of words


Speaking

  • Produces longer and more complex sentences by using closed-class, function, or non-content words (e.g., is, and, to) and word endings (e.g., -ing, -ed)

  • Learns to use new sounds and to say words with more complicated syllable structures

  • Creates longer and more complex sentences by modifying noun and verb phrases and by using word endings

  • Increases the length of his or her sentences by expanding on and combining two-word combinations

  • Begins to use more adult-like sentence structures for negatives, questions, demands, and statements

  • Begins telling his or her own stories, known as “protonarratives”

  • Relies less on gestures and other cues to understand others and to express himself or herself

  • Learning to use words that describe feelings

  • At 36 months, uses about 700 words

Knowledge of Language and Conversation Skills

  • Continues to develop his or her conversational skills

    • Uses imitation as a way of taking their turn and maintaining a topic in a conversation

    • Uses more words than gestures when talking with caregivers

    • Maintains topics for one to two turns

    • Learning that a pause in conversation indicates that it is time to take their turn

    • Becoming more successful at repairing breakdowns

    • Developing understanding of what information needs to be included during conversations

  • Communicates for a wider range of reasons such as to get attention, ask for things, comment, and share his or her feelings

Three to Five Years

Listening

  • Understands and uses an ever-increasing number of words and types of sentences

  • Shows an increasing ability to understand the language of time


Speaking

  • Learning to use new sounds and to say words with more complicated and longer syllable structures

  • Produces longer and more complex sentences by using closed-class, function, or non-content words (e.g., is, and, to) and word endings (e.g., -ing, -ed)

  • Learning to use pauses to understand when it is time to take his or her turn

  • Begins using polite language

  • Tells stories that are longer and more complex

  • At three, uses between 900 and 700 words

  • At 3 ½ years old, is able to talk about one topic for more than two turns

  • At four, says majority of consonants and vowels correctly

  • At five, uses about 5000 words, produces all the basic sentence types in English – if from an English-speaking home, is learning to produce more complex sentences through embedding and conjoining, and maintains topics for an average of five turns

Knowledge of Language and Conversation Skills

  • Develops a better understanding of what information needs to be included during conversations and of the perspective of listener

  • Better able to respond to when communication partners ask them to fix misunderstandings

  • Begins using different ways of speaking when talking to different people (e.g., adults vs. other children)