At What Age Should A Child Start Talking Clearly?

What did you feel when you first heard your child talk? It was surely a wonderful feeling when your baby said ‘daddy’ or ‘mommy’ clearly for the first time. On the other hand, what if your three year old can barely say two words together or isn’t talking yet? Worry not, for this article will clearly explain at what age a child is expected to start talking clearly. The key points here will make you aware if your child’s speech is developing normally.

At what age is a child expected to start talking clearly? Children’s speech development varies from child to child because they hit each speech milestone at a different pace. Their environment, inborn health conditions, and developmental delays can significantly influence how early they’ll be able to clearly express themselves. However, most children have developed speech by around three to four years of age.

You have to finish reading this article so you’ll know what to expect from your baby in each stage of speech or language development. This article will also help you determine if there is a language delay in your child. From here, you’ll be able to nurture a better environment for your child to acquire good oral communication skills. 

Stages Of Speech Development

Every speech milestone is an exciting one for every parent and an achievement for a baby. There are stages that tell how children develop their speech and language skills. However, when it comes to what age children will develop these skills, the timing can vary a lot. 

Here are the stages of speech development in which children develop clarity in their self-expression:

Before 12 Months

Babies babble when they are around the age of 6-month old. This happens when babies start to play with language sounds like “ma-ma” and “da-da”. Babies won’t say their official first words for a year or so, though they have their own ways of communicating with you from birth, such as by crying, gurgling, and sighing.

Most babies babble until their first birthday. Speech development at this stage starts with cooing. At this time, your baby is just beginning to learn how to communicate beyond crying. You will hear your baby string sounds together and use different vocal tones as a form of communication.

Before 12 months, they should be paying interest and attention to sounds around them. They should also be starting to recognize the names of common objects around them. If your baby does not watch intently or does not react to sounds, this may indicate speech delays or problems.

During the first few days after birth, babies undergo a hearing test. This test helps in identifying those who have problems in their sense of hearing, and also reveals if the child has might have delayed speech. Earlier detection can help you know what should be done next. Although at times, recurring ear infection at this stage can also affect your child’s hearing ability, and this may lead to language delays.

12 to 18 Months

At this age, babies should have a wide range of speech sounds. They begin to imitate words and sounds that they hear from their environment. In addition, they should be able to follow and understand simple one-step instructions from people around them.  During these months, most toddlers can babble about 20 words until their eighteenth month.  

By this time, your baby should be able to point to the different body parts like nose, eyes, ears, mouth, and others. Aside from pointing out, you can expect them naming each of their body parts as well. However, it’s a reality that many children will first point well before they can actually verbalize them. Usually, the nouns which are around them are the first few words of children at this stage.

18 to 24  Months

During these months, babies can start to combine two to three words to make simple sentences. Most children can already say approximately 20 to 50 words before they reach two years old. They can follow simple two-step commands and can identify common objects around them and point to objects when asked to do so.

At this stage, do not expect your child to have correct grammatical constructions when they express themselves, for they simply put together words they have previously learned. In addition, children at this stage can already point at pictures in a book, and can listen to storybooks with pictures.

2 to 3 Years of Age

A huge leap in speech development happens during this stage. Most parents are amazed when babies start forming simple sentences. They can now point to objects that they want and can say their thoughts aloud. Comprehension of what is happening around them should be developed at this age. 

More so, they should already begin to understand sets of directions and understand simple descriptive concepts. However, if your baby’s first word hasn’t been said by the age of 2, and the child doesn’t seem to understand about 50 words, you may have to speak to your doctor. As experts say, potential problems can be solved if recognized early. 

As a parent, you need to trust your gut if you think something isn’t right at this stage. It is best to ask for an expert opinion as soon as possible. 

3 to 4 Years of Age

At three years of age, around three-quarters of what your child is saying must already be understood by you. By the age of four, your child must be understood by others who know them. At this time also, most children must have started their schooling already, and it’s a must that their speech should already be relatively clear. This is also the stage where they start to self-correct themselves when they hear the correct pronunciation of words.

Your baby’s vocabulary is significantly improved at this time. For their speech and language development, you can’t expect 100% excellence of language skills at 36 months of age. The general guideline for babies states that the child should be using at least 3 to 4 words in a sentence, and this development happens between the age of 36 and 47 months. Therefore, you can expect children around 3 to 4 years of age to start to express themselves clearly.

Action Plan

How are you going to teach your child to speak clearly? Having learned that there are speech milestones at every age level. As parents and caregivers, every interaction with a baby is an opportunity for them to learn how to speak clearly.  Her are some tips to help your baby speak clearly.

1. Talk a lot with your baby. 

Chatting with your baby can simply leave wonders, and the way you talk can directly give an impact to his or her speech development. Saying words aloud while pointing into an object and saying its name can help your baby connect to the different objects around them. Remember, visual cues help in their speech development.

2. Sing songs, read rhymes, and watch videos appropriate for their level. 

These activities can help in the language development of babies. As you sing and read, children would imitate the sounds that you produce. These activities also enable them to learn the correct pronunciation. 

3. Repeat words. 

As a parent or caregiver, you’ll know when the baby is ready to learn. When the child is focused, try to offer specific words which are interesting for him or her. Repetition will help children say a particular word little by little. For example, if the baby says “baba” while pointing to a banana, touch the banana and say the word a few times to make the word ‘banana’ as a new vocabulary.

4. Encourage imitation. 

Babies tend to imitate things that they hear and see. Whenever you are doing something, try to narrate it. Use specific and simple words to help your baby learn. Imitation is common among babies so use this opportunity to teach and help them learn many things, particularly in improving their communication skills.

Related Questions

What should I do if my baby isn’t talking? Children who are not speaking at their appropriate levels must undergo speech evaluation. Speech-language pathologists are specialists who help with communication issues of all kinds from stuttering to language comprehension. Different types of testing therapy can be done to the child. Undergoing evaluation will help in identifying the needs of the child in order to have a normal speech development.

What is Developmental Screening? Developmental screening is a set of screening tests that are typically done during your baby’s visits to the doctor.  The screenings are ways for your doctor to tell if your baby is hitting the typical milestones or is showing signs of speech developmental delay. An example of this is when your one-year-old child isn’t making eye contact or doesn’t seem motivated to communicate. If this is observable, this could be a sign of a delay.

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This article is part of the Child Development series. Check out the guide to become a skillful parent.


child, First words, speech


Joe is a biologist and amateur writer.

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