“Wa-wa”, my 10 month old said as she pointed to her sippy cup. I shrieked with excitement. “Oh my goodness! My daughter can talk!!” To me it was as clear as day that my daughter wanted water.

Hearing that first word was one of the most memorable and thrilling moments of my life. It was then, that I realised my daughter was responding to her environment; that she wanted to communicate; that the thankless 10 months, living in a constant sleep deprived state, before that moment had been worthwhile.

I handed her the cup with a massive grin on my face. It was then that a wave of relief washed over me. At last I had confirmation that my daughter wanted to engage in her environment. She was now developing one of the most fundamental skills to guarantee her survival – speech!

Thankfully her three brothers followed closely in her footsteps. Each of them said their first words around 10 months and could talk quite fluently by the age of 2-2 ½ . Under the tutorage of their big sister, they all learnt the ‘magic’ word ‘wa-wa” that was rewarded with the ceremonious presentation of the sippy cup. That first word that set them all on their path of speech development.

I feel fortunate that overall my children followed normal patterns of speech development. That is, except my second child, who at 3 years old stopped talking. On the very rare occasion when he did speak, no one could understand him. We just thought he was quiet and maybe a bit shy. This was until the talk of Coklok (our family word for chocolate) caused us to think otherwise. Usually the first to partake in this occasional treat, my ‘quiet’ son did not pay attention to the conversation, nor did he jump at the sound of the packet opening. We then suspected that maybe he could not hear us. I knew instinctively that something was not quite right.

My husband and I performed, to what we now refer to as the “Coklok” experiment. We said our known trigger word, “Coklok” randomly in conversation around the house. We raised and lowered our volume to gauge the extent of his hearing loss. The results of our rudimentary experiment were conclusive- As we suspected, our son’s hearing was not quite right.

A trip to the GP and then to the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist confirmed our diagnosis. Our son had ‘glue ear”. This was quickly rectified by inserting grommets. Six sessions with the speech therapist and daily therapy with me at home improved his pronunciation. My story has a happy ending and one that I think most parents could learn from.

As a mother of 4, I read with empathy the posts on the Mouths of Mums website and facebook page. I noticed that the question whether a child’s language development seems normal is asked quite often. I thought I would share with you my story and this guide so you can quickly assess if your child is not tracking along the normal speech development curve. It’s a bit more reliable than the “Coklok” experiment we used to assess my son!

If you suspect that your child may not be tracking normally, I urge you to trust your instinct. There is no harm having your child assessed by a professional. Early detection and intervention is the key to minimising the developmental impact on your child.

Language Milestones by Age

Extracted from the Aussie Childcare Network http://www.aussiechildcarenetwork.com


Language Milestones


3 – 6 months old:

  • Uses vocal sounds to express likes and dislikes.
  • Moves eyes to direction of sound.
  • Makes gurgling noises while playing.
  • Babbles repetitive sounds such as “pa”, “ba”.
  • Responds to changes in tone of voice.
  • Enjoys listening to music.
  • Begins to babble different syllables.


12 -14 months:

  • Shouts at you when your child doesn’t like what you are doing.
  • Makes tuneful sounds when hearing familiar music.
  • Begins to learn the names of body part.
  • Listens when other children talk to each other.
  • Understands many more words than can say.
  • Can follow a broader range of ”instructions; “Let go of the toy”



15 -18 months

  • Consistently uses six or seven words
  • Understanding extends to many more words.
  • Combines language and gestures to express needs.
  • Enjoys songs and nursery rhymes.
  • May join in with some sounds and actions.

19 – 21 months:

  • Has extended vocabulary to dozens of words, mostly nouns that describe a general class of objects such as “car” for all vehicles or “house” for all buildings.
  • Child can put words together to form two-word phrases.
  • Tries to join in songs.
  • Spots familiar characters and objects in picture books and tries to name them.
  • Your Toddler begins to develop an understanding of speech is about social contact and communicating basic needs.


22 – 24 months:

  • Can accurately identify objects.
  • Experiment with different word combinations.
  • Tackles most sounds but often mixes up or mispronounces certain consonants such as “c” or “s”.
  • Vocabulary is at least 200 words, often combined in short sentences.


2 years old:


  • Can follow 2 instructions using on, under or behind (“stand behind the door”).
  • Respond to “what?” and “where?” questions.
  • Enjoy listening to stories.
  • Ask questions and listens to answers.
  • Starts using pronouns such as he, you, she etc.
  • Begin to use adverbs and adjectives (e.g. fast, high, big, soft, etc.).
  • Point to common objects when they are named.
  • Name objects based on their description.
  • Knows most parts of the body.
  • Recount events that happened throughout the day.
  • String known words together to form short phrases.


3 years old:


  • Ask questions beginning with, “Who, What and Where”.
  • Able to say name, surname and how old they are.
  • Use regular plurals and regular past tense correctly (may be a few errors while talking).
  • Begins to understand vocabulary indicating time, e.g. tomorrow, yesterday, later.
  • Begins to understand and correctly use adjectives depicting size, e.g. small, smaller and smallest.
  • Understand cause and effect relationships, e.g. if you drop a ball then it will bounce.


4 years old

  • They often ask the “when?” “how?” and “why?” questions.
  • Understand and use comparatives correctly (e.g. fast, faster, fastest).
  • Re-tell a story.
  • Repeats words with more syllables.
  • Enjoys pretend play.
  • Use words such as “should”, “shall”, “will”, “might” and “can”.
  • Able to carry out and understand between two and three instructions.
  • Names familiar objects/animals.
  • Pay attention to a reasonably long story, not always interpreting all the facts correct though.
  • Knows names of shapes and colours.
  • They use “because” and “so” correctly.


5 years old:


  • Pronunciation of words are clear.
  • Uses many descriptive words while talking.
  • Enjoys telling stories.
  • Able to say own age.
  • Have a basic understanding of time (morning, afternoon, night).
  • Easily understood while talking.
  • Begins to use more polite words while talking.
  • Uses language to tease and tell jokes.
  • Understand and sometimes tell a story, using sequence of events (e.g. “Firstly Mommy bought some eggs, then she fried them in a pan and finally we ate them”).
  • Overall speech should be grammatically correct
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  • My son spoke well at the required ages. So I thought. Apparently I could understand him just fine, but others outside the family struggled. But I didn’t worry, he’s fine now


  • After we for grommets for the first time what a difference we had in spech


  • thanks for this super informative article. i just had my children develop normally so i never had to think about these things. at least there is information available here to others that might be concerned about this issue


  • my son has autism, gdd, and some other things, but his gdd is still not up to the level of the other kids in his class. but he has improved heaps, and is talking better in sentences. he’s been seeing a speech therapist.


  • Our son was having difficulty pronouncing some letters. A few weeks with the speech pathologist and he was pronouncing beautifully and I was learning how to support him. Win Win. As a mum I am so happy to learn from the experts and apply it in our home.


  • Always listen to your gut instinct. It’s usually right.


  • thank you for the development scale,


  • My son is a bit behind according to that table but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about!

    • my grand daughter as well – she is two and is no where near 200 words!


  • Thank you for the table of where children should be up to when. I am always worrying about my son and where he is up to.


  • When my first daughter started speaking, I corrected her all the time on how to say words and use them, but with my second daughter, everyone let her talk like a baby and now at 5 she still used a W instead of a R sounds. Wabbit…. I have started working on her and she is getting better, but best to start from the beginning of speech!


  • My friend had a child who had abnormal speech delays. She later found out it had been due to multiple ear infections and viruses. She got grommets and her speech took just a minute time to come right along and she was right up to speed.


  • Thank you for sharing! :)


  • Thanks for sharing your story.


  • Glad you had such a great outcome


  • thanks you for sharing this article to read


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