Speech Development in Children When Does It Start?

Speech development in children varies greatly from age to age.

Children learn sounds by listening to people speaking around them. They have been tuning into the sounds around them since before they were born and they carry on developing their ability to tune into environmental sounds and speech sounds. Babies begin by playing with sounds first of all, then babble. This babble develops into longer strings using a wider range of sounds. At what ages do children learn different sounds? As children are learning to talk, their sound system develops gradually. This means that they cannot say all their sounds straight away, as some are later to develop than others. As a general guide, the table below shows the ages sounds develop by (this guideline is for children who speak English as their home language).

No matter how young or old your child is, you should be able to understand a certain amount of what they say all the time.

Pathologists have researched what ages children should be able to say certain sounds.

  • 18‐24 months: Use a limited number of sounds in their words – often these are p, b, t, d, m and w. Children will also often miss the ends off words at this stage. They can usually be understood about half of the time.
  • 2‐3 years Use a wider range of speech sounds. However, many children will shorten longer words, such as saying ‘nana’ instead of ‘banana’. They may also have difficulty where lots of sounds happen together in a word, e.g. they may say ‘pider’ instead of ‘spider.’   They often have problems saying more difficult sounds like ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’ and ‘r.’ However, people that know them can mostly understand them.
  • 3‐4 years Have difficulties with a small number of sounds – for example ‘r’, ‘w’, ‘l’, ‘f’, ‘th’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’ and ‘z’.
  • 4‐5 years Use most sounds effectively. However, they may have some difficulties with more difficult words such as ‘scribble’ or ‘elephant’.

LANGUAGE PAGE table of milestones

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