A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Getting the word out about speech development

Girls talk before boys, right?

Two toddlers playing with toysIf my child can’t speak full sentences by age 2 is it time to seek help?

There are lots of questions, misconceptions and myths when it comes to the age children should speak.

“Some children do more babbling in the first year, but they’re animated and understandable,” said Marshfield Clinic Speech Language Pathologist Robie Jo Linn. “Kids are pretty good communicators and we can understand their meanings even before their first true words.”

When to be concerned

While every child is different, Linn said there are definite speech development milestones children typically reach by a certain age.

  • 4-6 months – “conversations” without words – use eye gaze, imitate facial expressions, mimic “oohs” and “aahs.”
  • 9 months – follows a conversation and responds vocally.
  • 12 months – first words such as “momma” and “dadda” followed by favorite objects, “ball,” “book” and “dog.”
  • 18 months – points and shares. Child points to object, says its name and looks to parent for confirmation.
  • 24 months – has a vocabulary of about 50 words, can put two words together, follows little instructions, likes to “do what mom and dad do.”

“I would be concerned if they aren’t hitting these marks,” Linn said.

She recommends talking to the child’s primary care provider or contacting a speech therapist. They can assure you if your child is on the right path or if you have a legitimate concern.

Your community’s Birth-to-3 program and local school district are also sources for additional speech support. Referrals typically aren’t needed to contact a speech pathologist or the Birth-to-3 program.

As for the boys vs. girls debate on who speaks first, girls might have a slight advantage of a month or two, but boys close the gap as they become toddlers.

Visit our health library to learn more about speech milestones for your child.

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