Speech and language developmental milestones for two year olds.


Perhaps there is justifiable reason for the tantrums witnessed around the second year of life.  At this time, a child’s understanding of words and sentences is increasing rapidly while his ability to express himself with words and phrases is progressing at a slightly slower rate.  This can be a source of frustration for many toddlers, and thus the once happy-go-lucky child may begin to exhibit “melt-downs.”  Obviously, the disparity between language understanding and language expression cannot fully explain the phenomenon of the “terrible twos.”  However, parents should keep this in mind and encourage their child to use alternative modes of communication until verbal skills have improved, e.g., use of gestures/sign language, pointing to picture symbols to indicate desires, etc.    Below are some general guidelines to determine whether a child’s speech and language development are progressing appropriately.  If a child lags significantly behind in any area, parents are encouraged to speak with their child’s physician regarding referral to a speech-language pathologist for evaluation, and if needed, treatment.

Speech-Language Developmental Milestones: Two year old

Receptive Skills (Understanding)

  • Points to identify major body parts on self, e.g., eyes, nose, mouth, etc.
  • Points to identify most common objects and actions in pictures.
  • Follows related two-step commands, e.g., “Get your shoe and take it to Daddy.”
  • Understands several pronouns, e.g., “me, you, my and your.”
  • Understands spatial concepts such as “in, out of and of”

Expressive Skills (Expression)

  • Uses words more often than gestures to communicate.
  • Vocabulary around fifty words.
  • Combines words into short 2-3 word phrases, typically noun + verb combinations.
  • Progresses from referring to self by name to using early pronouns, although “me” and “I” are often confused.
  • Uses rising intonation or question inflection, e.g., “My ball?”

Speech Development

  • Ending sounds may be omitted from words, e.g., “up” said as “uh.”
  • Approximately 65% of speech should be intelligible (easily understood).

Remember, these are general guidelines.  There will be some variability among children based upon their own particular experiences with language.  All children, however, benefit from language-rich environments.  Parents/caregivers have many opportunities to help their children’s language growth simply by commenting or talking about daily activities.  The narration can be expanded as the child becomes more competent with language.  For example, narration for a two-year-old might be “puppy wet;” for a four-year-old, the narration could be expanded to, “The puppy is wet because it’s raining outside.”

Reading books with children is another fabulous opportunity to stimulate language growth.  Again, the complexity should shift with age and ability.  With younger children, you may simply comment about the pictures in books, then graduate to books with simple language and colorful pictures.  As the child’s understanding of language evolve, books with an actual story line can be introduced.

Engaging in play with children is another way to enhance their understanding and use of language.  From simple finger plays, like the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, to Simon Says, and later memory/matching games – most games provide opportunities to develop listening skills, expressive vocabulary and concept development.  

Talk. Read. Play. Have fun and watch your child’s language grow!

-> Speech and Language 3 year old

By Melodie Meadows – Melodie Meadows is a speech-language pathologist with over twenty years of experience.  She is licensed in the state of North Carolina and certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.   Melody currently practices at Asheville Speech Associates