From Single Words to Sentences

By June 4, 2024 June 13th, 2024 Speech Pathology
Child developing language from single words to sentences with Speech Pathologist in Bondi Junction and Mascot

How Children’s Language Develops from Single Words to Sentences

Language development in children is a fascinating journey. It begins with single words and gradually evolves into complex sentences. This process involves several stages, each crucial for a child’s communication skills. Let’s explore how children move from using single words to speaking in full sentences.

The First Words

  1. Babbling Stage: Around 6 months, babies start babbling. They make sounds like “ba-ba” or “da-da.” This is their first step in practicing language.
  2. First Words: By around 12 months, babies usually say their first words. These words are often simple and familiar, like “mama,” “dada,” or “ball.” These words are meaningful to them and usually refer to people or objects they see often.
  3. Naming Things: Toddlers begin to use words to name things they see. They might point to a dog and say “dog” or see a car and say “car.” Naming things helps them understand and organise their world.

Expanding Vocabulary

  1. Learning New Words: Between 18 and 24 months, children’s vocabulary grows rapidly. They start learning new words every day. They might learn words for animals, food, and common objects around the house.
  2. Two-Word Phrases: As their vocabulary expands, children begin to combine words. They might say “more juice” or “big truck.” These two-word phrases help them express more complex ideas and needs.
  3. Understanding Context: Children also start understanding the context in which words are used. They learn that “hot” means something they shouldn’t touch and “no” means they need to stop what they are doing.

Building Simple Sentences

  1. Three-Word Sentences: Around the age of two, children start forming three-word sentences. They might say “I want cookie” or “Mommy play ball.” These sentences show that they are beginning to grasp the structure of language.
  2. Using Pronouns and Plurals: Children begin using pronouns like “I,” “you,” and “me,” and start to understand plurals. They might say “dogs” instead of “dog” when referring to more than one.
  3. Basic Grammar: By age three, children’s sentences become more grammatically correct. They might say, “I am running” instead of “I running.” This shows they are learning the rules of language.

Developing Complex Sentences

  1. Longer Sentences: As children approach age four, they start forming longer sentences. They might say, “I want to go to the park and play on the swings.” These sentences show their ability to link ideas and use conjunctions like “and” or “because.”
  2. Questions and Negatives: Children begin asking questions like “Where is my toy?” and using negatives like “I don’t want that.” These skills are important for having meaningful conversations.
  3. Descriptive Language: Around this age, children start using descriptive words. They might say, “The big, red ball” instead of just “ball.” This helps them give more detailed information.

Refining Language Skills

  1. Storytelling: By age five, many children can tell simple stories. They might talk about their day or make up a story with a beginning, middle, and end. This ability shows their understanding of narrative structure.
  2. Understanding Time: Children begin to understand and use words related to time, like “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow.” This helps them talk about events in the past, present, and future.
  3. Complex Grammar: Children start using more complex grammatical structures. They might use past tense correctly, like “I played with my friend,” and use irregular verbs properly, like “I went to the store.”

Encouraging Language Development

  1. Talking and Reading: Talk to your child regularly and read to them every day. This exposure to language helps them learn new words and understand sentence structure.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask your child questions about their day, their interests, and the stories you read together. This encourages them to think and respond using more complex language.
  3. Expand on Their Speech: When your child says something, expand on it. If they say, “Big truck,” you can respond with, “Yes, that is a big, red truck.” This shows them how to build on their ideas.
  4. Play and Pretend: Engage in play that involves talking and pretending. Playing house, doctor, or store can help children practice using language in different contexts.
  5. Be Patient and Listen: Be patient when your child is speaking. Listen carefully and give them time to express themselves. This builds their confidence and encourages them to keep practicing.


Children’s language development from single words to sentences is a remarkable process. It involves expanding their vocabulary, understanding grammar, and learning to express complex ideas. By engaging with them, providing rich language experiences, and encouraging their efforts, parents and caregivers can support this development effectively. With time, patience, and practice, children will develop the language skills they need to communicate clearly and confidently.

Meet Evie

Evie is now 6 years old and she had a language delay. Evie started Speech Pathology at the age of 3 years. She had a few words when she first started but communicated many with gestures and sounds. Her Speech Pathologist at OneOnOne children’s Therapy designed a program that would build her language from sounds and single words, to 2 word phrases and eventually to sentences. Evie progressed through all the language stages and now  her language is on par with the other children in her class. You can’t tell that she ever had a language delay. She still attends Speech Pathology because her Speech Pathology is now targeting her written language skills.

We’re here to support you

At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Our clinics are not just a space for therapy – it’s a place where children can discover their strengths, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential.

By combining innovative therapy techniques with a stimulating and supportive environment, we’re proud to offer a holistic approach to paediatric therapy and early intervention that addresses the unique needs of each child we support.

Reach out for support

If you’re concerned about your child’s language development or want to learn more about how Speech Pathology can help your child, OneOnOne Children’s Therapy is here to help. We have clinics in Bondi Junction and Mascot – in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs.

Call us on (02) 80657837 or email. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with us to discuss how we can support your child’s unique journey