With every milestone, you must keep in mind that EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.  Therefore, your child may not hit the milestone on the EXACT timeline, but within a few months you should see these things start to emerge.  Also keep in mind that kids are typically either motor-based or language-based.  If your child was up and walking by 10 months, but seems to be a "late talker", that might be normal for him/her.  Being aware of the norms and watching out for possibly delays will keep you ahead of the game.  

Here are some GENERAL talking rules:
  • 1 word by age 1
  • two-word phrase by age 2 (things like 'thank you' are considered one idea and so it's not a two-word phrase.  A two-word phrase would be two different ideas being linked... "mommy shoe", "up please", "go car", etc)
  • 10-20 words by 18 months
  • about 100 words by age 2
  • vocabulary of 1000 words by age 3
  • Sentence length of 4-5 words by age 4
  • Uses proper future, present, and past tense of words by age 5
  • Should pronounce every sound correctly by age 6

Familiar listeners (close neighbors/friends, parents, siblings, etc) will typically understand more of what a child says.  However, by age 2 1/2 - 3, an UNFAMILIAR listener (stranger) should also be able to understand 80-90% of your child's speech.
Sequence - (n) 1. the following of one thing after another; 2.order of succession: a list of books in alphabetical sequence; 3. something that follows; a subsequent event; result: consequence;

Sequence - (v) 1. to place in order

(definitions provided by http://www.dictionary.comweeblylink_new_window)

Sequencing is part of our everyday life.  It's a shame that many of our kids have such a hard time with sequencing events and its another reason to target this activity in therapy or at home.  You can see that sequencing is not just knowing that baking the cookies comes after stirring the ingredients.  We use it when: we alphabetize, remembering important dates/events, understanding cause/effect (and punishments), etc.  We also use it unknowingly when we get ready in the morning.  Typically we know each other's routines (or sequences).  I know my husband will take a shower and get dressed before eating breakfast.  Therefore, I know that when he gets out of bed, I typically have 15 minutes to make something for breakfast (if its not too early and I'm feeling particularly sweet that morning).

I know that sometimes its hard to have the kids in the kitchen when you're getting dinner ready.  However, it's a great "teachable" moment.  Get out your apron, ingredients, kitchen tools, and your camera!  Your camera?  Yup!  Your camera.  Let your kids get involved with as many steps as possible.  Take a picture of each step.  When you are done, you can either look at the pictures on the camera to talk about the sequence of the steps or you can print them out and make a book.  Don't have a camera?  That's ok!  After it's all said and done, have your kids draw a picture of each step.  Once the drawings are completed, you can cut them out and make cards so the kids can put them in order or create a book.  Having your child write "captions" for each picture is another great way to work on expressive language, grammar, and spelling!

If your child is a:
  • Pre-talker: make sure to narrate each step and really focus on what you are doing.
  • Early language:  focus on the vocabulary for each step.  Show your child the item and name it.  Let him/her hold the item if it is safe.  Experiencing things with all 5 senses is important (but always keep safety in mind).  Make sure to keep the sequence steps to about 3-5 steps.  You don't want to overwhelm the child.  Simply get them to understand that there is a sequence of events and we can't possibly eat the dinner before we cook it.  :o)
  • Elementary/middle school language:  Start off with 4-5 of the pictures to sequence.  If your child is able to sequence those, then add in more pictures and see how specific he/she can be in putting things in order.  If there is some down time, give your child a few of the labels from the boxes (either write out the names or actually cut out the labels if the boxes are empty) and have him/her alphabetize them.  If you more than one child, time them and make it a game!  You can also give your child one item or one picture and ask for a detailed description.  
  • Articulation:  Pick out words with your child's speech sound.  Depending on his/her level of proficiency (and your speech therapist's recommendation), have him/her say it as a single word, in a phrase, sentence, reading, or conversation.  You can always pick out sounds that have been mastered to make sure they are still being articulated correctly.
  • Listening:  If your child is new to listening, let them listen to all the different noises in the kitchen (water running in the sink, spoon banging on a bowl, kitchen timer going off, mixer being turned on and off, etc).  Make sure to tell your child what he/she will be listening to ("Let's hear the water in the sink").  Then wait for him/her to hear it and then point to your ear and say, "I heart it!  I hear the water in the sink."  If your child has been listening longer, have your child close his/her eyes and listen for a sound.  After the noise has been turned off, let your child guess as to which noise he/she heard.  
Well, I just typed this entire blog and erased it somehow.  Oh the joys of technology.  Let's try this again...

What is your child doing when he is watcing you cook?  Zoning out?  Nope.  Your child is learning.  He's watching you and understanding what the things in his environment do and how they work.  For instance, he is seeing that the roundish silver thing with a stick goes on the big box attached to the wall with circles on top (aka a pot and stove).  Now, the child will understand how things work and things belong.  However, this does not give him the language to explain his world.  This is where you come in.

For pre-talkers, kids with early language, and kids with hearing loss (who are learning to listen and talk): You must narrate your life.  You need to tell your child everything that your using and doing.  I want you to narrate your life to point that you feel silly (it will happen) and you annoy yourself (this will also happen).  However, it's what is best for your child.  Don't stop with the names of objects.  You can explain materials things are made of, size, color, shape, function of items, where they belong, if it is edible or not, number of objects being used, weight, what something eats, the sound it makes, etc.  This will help you child begin to understand: sequencing of events, describing objects, naming items, conversation, etc.  The possibilities and benefits are endless!

Will this happen overnight?  Nope.  It is a hard habit to create.  If you begin one day and forget an hour later, that's ok.  Just start talking/narrating again when you remember!  Have your spouse remind you and you remind your spouse.  Now, let me give you some examples so you really get what I'm describing:
  • Johnny, I'm going to pour the orange juice from the gallon jug into this glass.  Mmmmm... this is tasty.  I like to drink orange juice.  Do you like my glass?  It is clear and tall.
  • Let's put the water on.  Do you hear it?  It makes a loud noise when it hits the bathtub.  What do we do in the bathtub?  We wash ourselves so we are clean.  We use a washcloth and soap when we wash ourselves.  What are we going to wash?  Let's wash your face first.  Now, let's wash your hands.  Do you see the bubbles on your hand?  They will disappear when we rinse your hand with water!  It's magic!
Now you try it at home.  Use your imagination and talk whenever you're doing ANYTHING!

I've seen it written - DON'T USE BABY TALK!  I agree with that statement.  However, many mothers think "baby talk" is the natural intonation pattern that mother's use with children and so they simply talk to their child like the baby is an adult.  The problem with that is that the baby is NOT an adult.  So, let's clear some things up.

Baby Talk is using nonsense words for real items.  We all do it.  "Do you want your Baba?"  Hmmm... what is that?  Is a Baba a blanket, bottle, or favorite lamb?  We should always strive to be the best language model for our kids.  That means that we should use the real words.  Why would we teach our child "baba" to only change it down the road to "bottle"?  I know, I know, I know... it's cute.  It's definitely cute when a two year old says "baba" and we want to encourage that language.  So, when your child says, "baba" and holds out his/her hands, then respond with, "Oh sure, Suzy!  Here's your bottle."  Always acknowledge that your child are communicating (because he/she is), but use the proper word.

Now, what's this about "motherese"?  Most of you have probably never heard the term, but you use it everyday.  Motherese is the natural high-intonation, slow pattern of talk that mother's use with children.  If you're not sure what I'm talking about, just pay attention the next time you talk to a child or a beloved pet.  Motherese is actually important for kids to hear.  It encourages them to copy your speech and teaches them variable intonations (high and low pitches) that are used during conversation.  You may sound or feel silly, but keep talking in that silly voice.  It's actually encouraging your child to speak and communicate!