Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Toddler speech development: Are 2-year-olds understandable?

Should I be concerned that my 2-year-old doesn't say many words and is hard to understand?

Updated: 03-09-2013

Answer

If you're unable to understand any of your 2-year-old's words, talk to your child's doctor about scheduling an evaluation. Speech delay can be an early sign of other developmental issues.

Although every child grows and develops at his or her own pace, toddler speech development tends to follow a fairly predictable path. For example, the average 2-year-old:

  • Speaks at least 50 words
  • Links two words together, such as "my cup" or "no juice"
  • Speaks clearly enough for parents to understand some of the words

The average 3-year-old:

  • Speaks 250 to 500 or more words
  • Speaks in three- and four-word sentences
  • Correctly uses pronouns (I, me, you, mine)
  • States first name
  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand much of the time

Your child's doctor will likely consider possible underlying reasons for a speech delay, from hearing problems to developmental disorders. If necessary, he or she might refer your child to a speech-language pathologist. Treatment options for toddler speech development depend on what's causing the speech delay and its severity. When treated early, however, speech and language delays and disorders generally improve over time.

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