Childhood Developmental Milestones
Children's development throughout the stages of life brings parents and kids alike a lot of excitement and joy. Parents spend the early years looking out for child growth development milestones, moving on to educational milestones and the various stages of family development as (depending on the parents' choices) more siblings are added to the clan and everyone learns how to live with and love one another. There's no doubt, however, that one of the major milestones in a child's life is the acquisition of language (i.e. learning to talk). When this happens, not only can a child communicate with his parents through facial expressions and gestures, he can begin to verbalize his emotions, and thereby verbalize his personality. For many parents, this child development benchmark represents a new era in getting to know the little person whom they've brought into the world.
Early Child Speech Development Milestones
Speech development in kids generally begins at around 6 months. At this time, a baby will start making noises and can use intonation to communicate excitement, happiness, distress, etc. Although he may be able to respond to his name being called (by making a noise or a physical gesture) he won't be making any fully formed words just yet. By the time he's one year old, he'll probably be able to say one or two words or parts of words correctly. He may also be able to understand verbal instructions given to him.
By the age of 18 months, he'll probably be able to use somewhere between 5 and 20 words (most of them will be nouns), he may repeat words he hears over and over again, and he may be able not just to understand but specifically follow simple verbal commands.
Before the age of two (24 months) a lot of what he says may not be intelligible, but by now about 2/3 of his speech should be understandable. He may know somewhere between 150 to 300 words and be able to form short very short sentences. He may know how to use some words like "my" and "mine" (always a favorite for toddlers!) and some prepositions like "in" and "on."
By the age of 3 years, about 90% of what he says will probably be understood. He may be using pronouns, past tenses and plurals in his speech and may have a vocabulary of up to 1000 words. He may be able to answer simple questions and tell people his name, his age and his gender.
The Role Of Parents
Parents play a huge role in encouraging speech development in their kids. How you speak to your child, and how often to talk to him from the moment of his birth will influence his ability to reach speech-related development milestones throughout his childhood. Basically, you as parents, plus the baby's siblings, should talk to him as much as possible. When he responds (by making noises, moving his head, or talking) react positively, with smiles, cuddles, laughter and encouragement. Don't get into correcting his speech at this early age - the most important thing is that he builds confidence to speak and sees that people respond to his speech (this teaches him the social value of language, which is important for his development overall).
Speech Development Problems
If a child hasn't uttered his first word by the age of 2, something may be affecting his speech development. If you're concerned by what you perceive to be your child's poor speech or delayed acquisition of language, speak to your pediatrician.
Middle Childhood Developmental Milestones
Between the ages of 5 and 11 is when your child's natural language acquisition is supplemented by formal schooling and organized teaching of literacy skills.
At the beginning of this process, most children are able to pronounce many of the vowels and consonants of the alphabet and count to ten. Other milestones at this stage include being able to speak in compound sentences and recognize opposites (warm/cold), as well as being familiar with concepts of time (tomorrow, next week, etc.) and speaking grammatically correctly most of the time.
By the time he leaves elementary school, he should be able to converse on a reasonably adult level - all pronunciation problems should have rectified themselves and he should have very few grammatical mistakes in his speech. He should be able to read age-appropriate texts easily, and write simple compositions.