How Many Words Should My Child Have?


Speech and language development is a very complex process involving many factors, elements, and skills. It can be easy to ignore how remarkable it really is as adults when hearing, speaking, and understanding seem to occur on autopilot.

We get it; you just want to make sure that your child progresses as they should. That’s why you might want to know how many words your child should already know.

Allow us to share the different milestones your child should ideally hit at certain ages. For instance, what counts as a 15-month-old development milestone? Let’s get started.

What Counts as a Word?

Before moving on, let’s define what a “word” is. It will give you a more accurate idea of how to count the words your child can already speak.

Who knows? Your child may already be speaking more words than you think.

A “word” for a young child is not just an actual word. It can be a part of a word, a sound, an exclamation, or even a gesture, such as in sign language). For instance, a word can be “cat”, “ca-”, “meow”, and “wow”.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: as long as your child is uttering something intentionally, in the right context and a consistent manner, then it will count as a word.

That means your child is just not babbling random sounds. You’ll be able to rule out happy accidents this way as well.

Milestones vs. Average Range

Next, let’s move on to define the terms that speech professionals use when determining your child’s progress. There are two, namely milestones and average.

A milestone refers to what 90% of kids exhibit at a certain age. On the other hand, an average refers to what 50% of kids typically demonstrate.

Thus, you should take the word “average” in a mathematical sense, not as a word that means “normal” or “common”. It also means that some children may not be meeting the average rate, but they can be hitting their milestones and are actually performing okay.

Different Word Count Milestones and Averages for Young Children

Here are the different milestones and averages for each stage:

12-Month-Old Language Development

To meet the milestone, your little one should have uttered their first word already. The average range, however, is around two to five words. It is understandable for your child to have a limited vocabulary in the first year of their life.

They need to understand the connection between spoken words and immediate surroundings. For instance, when your baby says “mama”, then you should make sure that they are, indeed, referring to their mom, and not to something else, say your pet dog or a toy.

15-Month-Old Language Development

The average number of words that a 15-month old can say ranges around 10. The goal is to increase their vocabulary. You can also start introducing words that refer to more abstract concepts, such as exclamations and emotions.

18-Month-Old Language Development

To meet the milestone, your child should have ten words in their language arsenal already, although the average number of words of toddlers at this age is up to 50. 15 to 24 months is actually the most exciting time in language development.

It’s when your young one is really starting to grasp the basics of communication. Thus, this is also the best time to increase your read-aloud sessions if you want to give your child’s vocabulary and comprehension an added boost.

24-Month-Old Language Development

To meet the milestone, your child should be able to say at least 50 words already. Otherwise, the average is around 200 to 300 words.

According to Parents, this is also the time when your toddler will start putting together their own two-word sentences now. For instance, “doll pretty” or “car go”.

You should also notice your child starting to understand the concept of using pronouns like “you” and ‘me”. Don’t worry about pronunciation just yet. It’s normal for only 50% of their words to be understood.

36-Month-Old Language Development

Your child is growing up so fast. At three years of age, they should be able to speak at least 250 words to meet their milestone.

Meanwhile, many toddlers already have a treasure trove of words that they’re starting to build longer and more complex sentences. This makes it the perfect time to have quality conversations with your child.

According to an article published by Harvard, talking to your child mindfully can ignite and establish lasting speech and literacy skills.

Boosting Your Child’s Word Count

Indeed, the number of words that your child can say is a good metric to determine how their speech and language development is going. You can refer to the milestone and averages that we have shared with you above for reference.

Remember that word count is just a single aspect of communication. There are other factors to consider to determine your child’s progress accurately. Good luck!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here