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Serious Baby Talk: Child Language Development

   Perhaps no milestone is a child's early life is more endearing than hearing his first words. Children learn quickly, and during infancy their brains are powerful sponges, soaking up information, much of which relates to language and the use of words, sounds, and expressions to communicate with others. In fact, by the age of three many children are already speaking intelligibly and using a vocabulary of close to 1,000 words. In that time, parents will notice an astonishing growth in their child's language skills, and should make careful practice of nurturing those skill sets by interacting with the child whenever possible.

    The following lists show language development markers from six months to three years. As with any set of standards, these guidelines are not to be considered absolute. Consult your pediatrician if you feel your child may be falling behind or gaining ahead of the curve presented below.

-  At six months, the child should speak with intonation; respond to his or her name; respond to human voices without the help of visual cues; and respond to friendly or angry tones of voice with appropriate reaction. 

-  At one year old, the child should show the capacity to understand simple instructions - especially in instances where physical and/or vocal cues are provided; use one or more words with meaning; demonstrate inflection in his speaking voice; show awareness of speech's social value - i.e., show eagerness to communicate with words.

-  At eighteen months, the child should possess an approximately 15 - 20 word vocabulary, made up predominantly of proper and common nouns; show some signs of developing echolalia, or the ability to repeat words and phrases over and over; communicate with simple, emotionally-charged jargon; and show the ability to obey and complete simple commands.

-  At two years old, children usually possess a 150-300 word vocabulary; can name a number of objects in the household or in their other normal surroundings; show ability to correctly use at least two prepositions (usually in, on, or under) and two pronouns (typically I, me, and you.) Two-year-old children usually demonstrate the ability to make simple sentences, with about 2/3 of all speech intelligible. Rhythm, fluency, and volume and pitch are frequently not yet completely under control, however.

-  When the child reaches three years old, in addition to the conditions and milestones listed above, a healthy and well-adjusted child should be able to give his name, age and gender when asked; reasonably relate his experiences; name or indicate the parts of the body; and understands most simple questions relating to environment, setting, and activities. The child correctly uses simple pronouns (I, me, you) and adds some plurals and past tenses to his speech. Simple prepositions, such as under, above, in, and on are also correctly used. The child should also easily formulate three-word sentences.