Language Milestones: 2 to 3 years

A beautiful mixed race little girl pulling a face.

Causes for Concern

  • If your child loses language or other skills at any time, they need to be evaluated quickly. Children of all ages should be progressing, and not going backwards.
  • Understandable speech – You and the rest of the family (or other primary caregivers) should be able understand your child by the time they are 30 months old. If you cannot, that is a cause for concern.
  • Simple sentences – By three years of age, your toddler should be able to speak short, simple sentences.
  • Simple questions – Your three-year-old should also be able to ask simple questions.
  • Speech understandable to strangers – Your child’s speech should be increasingly clear. By three years of age, if strangers cannot understand any of their speech, that is a cause for concern. Strangers should be able to understand about half of their speech.
  • Simplification – By three years, words should be closer to the real thing. Your child should not be dropping a lot of syllables.
  • Three-year-old, bottom line – If your child’s speech is not clear by this time, they need a thorough evaluation

My son’s first sentence, as I recall, was “pick my up,” which meant, “pick me up.” My husband’s first longer sentence was in Spanish, his first language. He said, “I go bye-bye in bus and train.” It was actually Spanglish, because he said bye-bye. Here it is if you speak Spanish, “Voy a bye-bye en gua gua y tren.”

Children in bilingual families may show a slight delay in reaching milestones for both languages, but will eventually reach all of them in two languages. The slight delay is more than compensated for by the fact that the child speaks two languages. It is much, much harder to completely learn a second language later in life.

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You and your three-year-old should be able to communicate with each other very well. This will continue to be fun for both adults and children. You should continue to read to your child and help her with her word acquisition. She will ask many questions. My son started with “What dat?” meaning “What is that?” You will hear some variation of this short sentence a lot from your child during this time, and they will be very proud of all the words they have learned.

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Language Milestones: 2 to 3 years

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5 comments

  1. Lynette says:

    My family has 5 languages. Spanish, Arabic, French, Berber, Moroccan Arabic and then of course english. We are teaching our kids spanish and moroccan arabic.

    • Good for you, Lynette! My mother grew up with a Japanese speaking father, but was never taught the language; she wishes that she had learned it. Your kids are very lucky to be bilingual.

  2. yonna says:

    My husband is not fluent in Spanish and his mother (Mexican/Spaniard) has been teaching our 6 yr old since she was a baby Spanish. I have two other children that are 4 mos and 16 mos old so we are working on them all to be bilingual. My husband and I are learn with our children. My daughter 6 year will be attend 3rd grade at a charter school that teaches the kids that speak English will learn Spanish and verse versa with Spanish speaking kids.

  3. EbyMom says:

    My family is bilingual, english and our mother tonugue. We want our children to know our dialect at least be able to understand words in our dialect cos they will definitely learn English in school. I guess my 21/2 yr old understands our dialect but when he watches kids programme which is in English I feel he is a bit confused which is which. He will definitely get there by 3yrs. I worry a lot but this article gave me hope.

  4. Janice says:

    The little ones, try so hard to talk and pick up vocabulary, like they are trying to ride a bike, they got for their birthday! It is sweet.

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