Language Development:
3-5
 Years Old

  • The child has longer, more complex conversations about their thoughts and feelings

  • The child might also ask/talk  about things, people and places that aren’t in front of them

  • The child wants to talk about a wide range of topics

  • Their vocabulary keeps growing

  • The child starts to show an understanding of basic grammar

  • Starts using sentences with words like ‘because’, ‘if’, ‘so’ or ‘when’.

  • Stories are more entertaining

  • Uses more numbers

  • Uses names for groups of things like ‘vegetables’ or ‘animals’

  • Uses family terms like ‘aunty’ or ‘brother’

  • The child is able to name basic emotions like ‘happy’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’

  • The child will show that they understand the basic rules of language. For example, your child will start using possessives like ‘daddy’s hat’. You’ll hear past and present tense too, like ‘talked’ and ‘talk’.

  • Children will often apply these rules strictly across all examples, not realizing that sometimes English breaks its own rules. For example, ‘He runned away’ instead of ‘He ran away’.

  • By this age, the child might be using ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘me’ correctly

  • They might confuse the use of negatives

  • The child might tell stories that follow a theme and often have a beginning and end

  • They might need a lot of prompting to keep the story moving ‘And then what happened?’

  • The child starts to reason, predict things and express empathy. 

  • Closer to four, the child starts to tell you about what they’re thinking.

  • They might start conversations using questions like ‘Guess what?’ 

  • By age four, most adults will understand the  child

  • The child might not pronounce some words the right way. They might still have trouble pronouncing words that include the sounds ‘l’, ‘th’ or ‘r’.

  • When the child doesn’t understand what you say, they might ask you to explain or ask you what specific words mean.

  • The child will understand instructions that have more than two steps

  • The child will understand questions most of the time

  • They’ll understand slightly complicated explanations, as long as they can see the results themselves. For example, they’ll understand an explanation like ‘When the sun shines on things, it makes them hot. The water in the dog’s bowl has been in the sun. Feel how warm it is’.

  • By four, the child might be able to understand and use words to express emotions like ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’ or ‘surprised’.

  • The child knows most colours

  • They can compare two things, like ‘This carrot is longer than that one’

  • By now, children will be able to do some simple negotiation with other children. For example, they’ll be able to talk about who can play with a toy first.

  • At around four years, the child might even be able to explain why they want an object from another child – for example, ‘Can I have the green pencil? I want to colour in the grass’

  • And at this age, children will begin to use language in role play

When to Seek Assistance: 

Your four-year-old child:

  • isn’t using three-word sentences

  • doesn’t understand simple instructions – for example, ‘Please give me the spoon’

  • is often hard to understand when they’re talking to you, family or friends

  • has stopped using a language skill they once had.