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Speech and Language Development: 3 to 4 years

(757) 668-7000

Language means using words and sentences to tell needs, wants or ideas. Speech means making the sounds that make words. Learning to talk and communicate is a very important skill that children develop. Parents are usually the first to notice when their child has a problem with speech or language. If you think that your child is having a speech/language problem, contact your child’s doctor. If you have more specific questions about your child’s speech and language, you can call Children’s Speech and Language Center of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters at 668-7182.

AgeUnderstanding Sounds/Words (Receptive Language)Making Sounds/Words (Expressive Language)What you can do to help language development
3 years
  • Knows action words (For example: Can point to the correct picture when asked, “Which one can you ride?”
  • Understands size differences (big/little)
  • Understands long sentences
  • Understands prepositions (on, under, behind)
  • Stays with one activity 8 or 9 minutes
  • Uses 4-5 word sentences
  • Refers to self by using own name
  • Uses pronouns correctly (I, you, he, me, etc.)
  • Names colors
  • Asks a lot of questions (ex. What’s that?  Why?)
  • Should be able to say about 1,000 words and almost everything your child says can be understood by a stranger
  • Read stories to your child.
  • Spend time allowing your child to talk with you.
  • Teach your child how things work.
  • Encourage play with other children.
  • Encourage your child to tell you stories.
  • Listen to your child and show that you are pleased by your child’s talking.
4 years
  • Understands time and future (ex. “next month” or “early in the morning”)
  • Knows what things are used for (ex. “What do you do with a cup?”)
  • Understands prepositions (on, under, behind)
  • Stays with one activity 11 to 12 minutes
  • Uses 4-5 word sentences and some 7-8 word sentences
  • Asks a lot of questions
  • Has a vocabulary of about 1500 words and can be understood by strangers
  • Knows at least 4 colors
  • Uses contractions like “It’s a” or “Don’t go”
  • Uses past tense
  • Count to 3
  • Read long stories with your child.
  • Spend time allowing your child to talk with you.
  • Help your child to understand different grouping (ex. “What are things that you eat?” or “What are things that you ride?”)
  • Help your child plan things like what you will do on the weekend.
  • Help your child learn your address, phone number, count.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 06/06

(757) 668-7000