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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years

Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years

Overview

Speech and language development milestones relate to two areas:

  • Receptive language. This is the ability to understand words and sounds.
  • Expressive language. This is the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning.

A child's speech and language development becomes more advanced starting around age 3 through age 5. Receptive language skills during this period become more sophisticated. A child learns to make subtle distinctions between objects and relationships. Also, the child can understand multi-step requests. Most children also gradually speak more fluently and use proper grammar more consistently.

Speech and language milestones

Age

Receptive language

Expressive language

3-year-olds:

  • Follow two-part requests, such as "put your pajamas in the hamper and your slippers in the closet."
  • Learn new words quickly; know most common object names.
  • Understand the concept of "two."
  • Understand gender differences.
  • Know their own full name.
  • Start to correctly use plurals, pronouns, and prepositions more consistently.
  • Often ask "why" and "what."
  • Often use complete sentences of 3 to 4 words.

4-year-olds:

  • Know the names of colors.
  • Understand the difference between things that are the same and things that are different, such as the difference between children and grown-ups.
  • Can follow three-step instructions, such as "Go to the sink, wash your hands, and dry them on the towel."
  • Use the past tense of words.
  • Use sentences of 5 to 6 words.
  • Can describe something that has happened to them or tell a short story.
  • Can speak clearly enough to be intelligible to strangers almost all of the time.

5-year-olds:

  • Understand relationships between objects, such as "the girl who is playing ball" and "the boy who is jumping rope."
  • Usually can carry on a conversation with another person.
  • Often call people (or objects) by their relationship to others, such as "Bobby's mom" instead of "Mrs. Smith."
  • Can define words such as "spoon" and "cat."

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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