Infant Language Development: What to Expect

Infant Language Development:
What to Expect

Infant language development begins immediately following birth. Each day is a super fast and fun ride as you watch them grow.

A baby goes from not even making eye contact and only crying...

...to looking at you for the first time and surpising you with "Go?"

During the first 18 months, speech and language milestones are divided into two stages

Child is PRE-Intentional: 0-8 Months Children at this age do not do anything because they planned it!

They don't have the cognitive skills yet to create ideas in their minds and then act on them through planned actions.

Child is Intentional but not Conventional: 9-18 Months

Children at this age now do things intentionally. They will pick up objects and use them the right way. They begin to say sounds and words on purpose because they now have meaning.

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SEE ALSO: 8 Activities for Using Multi-syllabic Words

2-4 Months


Social/Play

  • Smiles and recognizes familiar people

4-6 Months


Social/Play

  • Responds to environmental sounds (phone, doorbell) and speech

  • Can begin to show anger

6-8 Months


Social/Play

  • Responds to "look"

  • Looks when name is called

  • Begin to show fear from 6-12 months


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Child is Intentional but not Conventional: 9-18 Months

8-10 Months


Receptive Language / What The Child Understands

  • Understands a few single words in very familiar contexts (child shows understanding by looking at the same object as mother, playing with the object, and copying mother's action) 8-12 months

Social/Play

  • Looks at object, then at the partner (gaze shifts)

  • Begins to searches for items that were just moved out of sight (object permanence beginning)

10-12 Months


Receptive Language / What The Child Understands

  • Understands a few single words in very familiar situations

    (child shows understanding by looking at the same object as mother, playing with the object, and copying mother's action) 8-12 months


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12-14 Months


Receptive Language / What The Child Understands

  • Understands single words outside of routine situation, but still requires a few things to be familiar/context

    (child shows comprehension by looking at the object, showing you in some way that they noticed, might look back, and then does what you usually do with that object) 12-18 months

Social/Play

  • Knows objects exist even when not in sight, will search for them (object permanence complete)

  • Semi-appropriate toy use (uses object correctly but in a fleeting way, object doesn't have to be positioned right)

    Example: Touches comb to hair but the teeth are facing up

14-16 Months


Receptive Language / What The Child Understands

  • Understands single words outside of routine situation, but still requires a few things to be familiar/context

    (child shows comprehension by looking at the object, showing you in some way that they noticed, might look back, and then does what you usually do with that object) 12-18 months

Social/Play

  • Nesting (places or stuffs random objects into a container)

    Example: Puts all cars into a cowboy hat.

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SEE ALSO: 21 Free Apps for Speech Therapy

16-18 Months


Receptive Language / What The Child Understands

  • Follows familiar 1-step directions without gestures

  • Understands names of familiar objects without context

Emergent Literacy Skills 

  • Looks at and listens to simple board books
  • Shows appreciation of books

Social/Play

  • Plays alone and talks to self
  • Explores toys but no longer mouths them
  • Makes a choice when offered 2 toys
  • Episodes when they show different emotions (happy, mad, sad, fear)
  • Requests objects or actions
  • Child tries to get adult's attention on what they are interested in

  • Greeting and waving goodbye

  • Calling for someone or something

  • Showing off


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