Speech and Tongue Development in Children


Children start to develop speech as infants and continue to develop rapidly until they start school. During the elementary school years children go from forming short sentences in kindergarten to making oral presentations to their fifth grade classes. They develop not only a greater vocabulary but the capacity to use metaphor, emotion and nonverbal communication to enhance their speech.

Age 0-4

You may think the first sign of speech in a baby is “mama” and “dada” but according to an article at Metro Parent, it might be the raspberry. Babies start razzing their caregivers at six to eight months of age, often encouraged by the fact their parents laugh and echo the action. This activity helps them develop control of muscles in their tongues and lips, important skills for when they are ready to form actual words. (Reference 1) Speech grows quickly from one or two words at age one, to short sentences at age two, to unending “Why?” questions by age four. (Reference 2)

Age 5-6

By the time children start kindergarten, their words have become clear enough that most people can understand them. They speak in longer sentences and they use most parts of speech correctly. They can participate in conversations, taking turns with the other speaker appropriately. They repeat stories they have heard to tell about events they have seen, and they become better at organizing their stories into logical order. They become interested in conversation and may seek it out. (Reference 3)

Age 7-8

In second and third grade children’s sentences grow more complex. In conversations they stay on topic rather than abruptly changing subject. They start to relate to the meaning of speech rather than simply the words, which allows them to explain ideas more clearly and to summarize a story they hear in their own words. They learn to use language not only for simple communication but also for more subtle means such as entertainment and persuasion. In addition to speech they learn to use nonverbal communication such as eye contact and facial expressions appropriately. (Reference 3)

Age 9-10

As students near the end of elementary school, they are able to participate in group conversations with friends and classmates across multiple subjects. They can not only summarize information they have come across but can draw their own conclusions from the information presented. They begin to grasp similes, metaphors and other figurative methods of speech. Not only has their general vocabulary expanded but they have learned subject-specific vocabulary. As they near the end of elementary school, they can make oral presentations to a group, using appropriate body language and voice. (Reference 3)


  1. Metro Parent: How ‘Raspberries’ Help Baby Develop
  2. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: Speech and Language Developmental Milestones
  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Your Child’s Communication Development – Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade