Language Development: 1-3 Years


Between the ages of 1 and 2, your child will be acquiring new words on a regular basis. Expect to hear the word “no” a lot—though babies often say “no” when they really mean “yes.” They’ll start to understand simple questions or commands. The more you read to them, the more words they’ll start to use.

Between 2 and 3 years, your little one will learn about 300 words. Have books for your child in your home. Continue to read to them daily. Encourage them to tell you stories to develop original thinking and increase their vocabulary. You’ll probably hear, “I can do it!” and “Let me do it.” That’s good: Those are healthy signs of gaining independence.

1–2 Years

  • Understands “no”—and will be saying it a lot
  • Knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked
  • Follows simple commands (“Roll the ball.”) and understands simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”)
  • Enjoys simple stories, songs and rhymes
  • Points to pictures, when named, in books
  • Uses the word “more”
  • Uses some one- or two-word questions (“Where kitty?” or “Go bye-bye?”)
  • Puts two words together (“more cookie” or “no juice”)
  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words
  • Points to specific objects he or she wants and tells you that he or she wants them
  • Understands longer, harder sentences
  • Asks many questions: “What?”, “Where?”, “Why?”
  • Recognizes, names and picks out common objects

2–3 Years

  • Has a word for almost everything
  • Uses two- or three-word phrases to talk about and ask for things
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d and n sounds
  • Speaks in a way that is understood by family members and friends
  • Names objects to ask for them or to direct attention to them
  • Answers routine questions (“What is that?”, “What is your name?”, “How old are you?”)
  • Follows directions having no more than two steps, such as “Find your shoes and get your coat.”
  • Begins to use many different parts of spoken language:
  • Plurals: “cookies”
  • Prepositions: “in the jar”
  • Modifiers: “some,” “a lot”
  • Possessives: “mine,” “his”
  • Adjectives: “pretty”
  • Adding “-ed” to verbs to show past tense

The first five years are critical to children’s development as their brains triple in size during that time. Research has also shown that young children who have genuine and meaningful conversations develop larger vocabularies. All of these factors are strong predictors for their long-term school success. As they get older and their language develops, ask open-ended questions which give them the opportunity to respond using more than one-word responses. You will strengthen your relationship with your children while supporting their communication skills and academic success.

Check out these tools from LAUP to help parents and caregivers engage their children in positive, open-ended conversations. "Take Time. Talk!" is now available as a PDF in both English and Spanish.

Download"Take Time. Talk" - English

Download "Take Time. Talk" - Spanish

Printed materials are also available as a tool in the classroom as well as individual brochures for families to take home. Contact for more information.