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Does My Toddler Have a Language Delay?

My 21/2-year-old daughter seems to talk less than her sister did at this age. I know that kids develop language skills at different times, but I'm still concerned. What's "normal" for her age?
– Nina

As you mention, all children (yes, even siblings!) develop and refine their language skills at different times throughout their development, so the range of what's "normal" is broad. However, there are some guidelines that parents go by when deciding if their child might be at the latter end of the spectrum.  

A typical 2-year-old should:

  • speak in two-word phrases, like "more juice" and "go bye-bye"
  • follow two-step commands
  • name simple objects
  • have a vocabulary of 50 or more words
  • be understood at least 50% of the time by a parent

Between 2 and 3 years, vocabulary continues to build and comprehension also increases. By 3 years of age, a child should:

  • speak in three-word sentences
  • have a vocabulary of 200 words or more (basically, more than you can count)
  • be understood 75% of the time
  • understand prepositions (such as, "put it on the table" or "put it under the bed")
  • use pronouns ("me," "you," "it")

If you feel that your child is not on track, talk to your doctor about your concerns.  

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2010

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