Communication Skills Milestones for Children aged 3-5 years old

As my son is 4 years old this year, I searched online for reading and activity stuff for him and came across an UK website named Words for Life.

Below is what I managed to obtain from the website on the milestones for children aged 3-5 years old.


Image Credit: wordsforlife.org.uk

This age is key for development of speech and language and you will might notice your child using new words and phrases almost every day. They will also be asking endless questions!

  • Three years: using new words and phrases almost daily.
  • Four years: children understand and say lots of words and sentences.
  • Five years: learning to listen, understand and share ideas at school.

Milestones – By three years

Children will be saying lots more words during this time – you will notice that they use new words and phrases almost daily.  Children will be asking endless questions to help them learn and find out about the world around them.  They are often keen to have conversations with adults they know well.

Taking part
Your child will enjoy watching other children play and occasionally joining in. She will recognise the names and pictures of most common objects and love looking at books. Let her hold the book and choose what she’s interested in to talk about. Your child will be able to make simple choices, e.g. “Do you want the cup or the spoon?”

Three year olds often enjoy the company of adults and of other children.

  • Does your three year old enjoy playing and talking with others?
  • Do they ask you to play with them and join in simple games with other children?
  • Do they play more complex make believe games, e.g. dressing up?
  • Can they recognise how other people feel and try to do something about it, e.g. “Ah Josie sad. She need a hug.”

Understanding of language
Your child will understand a lot more of what is being said now.  Children of this age understand phrases like “Put teddy in the bag and longer instructions, such as “get a biscuit and your cup”. They are beginning to understand “who”, “what” and “where” (but not “why”) questions. They enjoy simple stories with pictures.

  • Can your three year old remember longer instructions and information?  Can your child understand questions using “what”, “who” and “where”? E.g. answer “Where is mummy ?”, “What did you see in the park?”
  • Does your child listen to, and remember, simple stories with pictures?

Use of words and sentences
By the age of three children will usually speak in sentences, joining four or five words together to communicate simple ideas, events or stories to others, e.g. “Me a big girl now.”  They will ask simple questions to get information using questions words like “where?” “why?” “who?”. They use up to 300 words and will refer to something that has happened in the past.

  • Has your child stopped relying on pointing to get what they want, or only using single words?
  • Does your three year old ask lots of questions?

Speech sounds: Your child has clearer speech.  You should be able to understand most of what they say, though their speech might not be perfectly clear to everyone.  Errors such as “doap” instead of soap, “boa” instead of boat and “tar” instead of car are still common.  Children of this age use little grammar words like “I, me, a, the,” and put “ed” endings of doing words, such as, “We walked” but will sometimes use immature grammar, e.g. “shutted.” Help your child to learn by saying back “Yes, you shut the door.”

Any concerns?
It is important to remember that all children are different and your child may develop at a faster or slower rate than others. If your child has a nanny, childminder or goes to nursery talk to them. It is always helpful to have information about how your child talks and communicates in other places.

Learning to talk is a complicated process and no children get it right straight away. Young children often stop, pause, start again and stumble over words when they are learning to talk. This is normal. Children will often repeat words and phrases (or say things like ‘um um’) and hesitate whilst they are sorting out what they want to say. This can go on even up until they start school.

If you are at all concerned about your three year old’s language development, for example you think that they speak less than other children their age, or are not talking in four to five word sentences, you should contact your health visitor, children’s centre or local speech and language therapist  and talk to them about your child. You can contact a speech and language therapist yourself; you do not need to go through your GP or health visitor though Speech and Language Therapy services are run differently depending on where you live. You can get free resources and check out your child’s speech, language and communication development at www.talkingpoint.org.uk

Milestones – By four years

Most children of this age go to nursery. Children understand and say lots of words and sentences now. You can see them using their talking to meet new friends or to work out problems. They talk to find out new information by asking lots of questions.

Taking part
Your four year old will be able to take turns as well as be starting to share with adults and other children. He will enjoy playing with other children and start a conversation.

Your child will listen to longer stories and answer questions about a story they have just heard, for example, simple questions such as “Who did Cinderella dance with at the ball?”, “Were Cinderella’s sisters kind?”

Four year olds use talk in different ways. They use it to organise themselves and their play and they like make-believe and dressing up. They start to like simple jokes – though often their own jokes make little sense.

  • Does your child like to play and talk with others?
  • Does your child enjoy sharing books with you, especially ones with rhymes?
  • Is your child starting to be able to plan games with others?

Understanding of language

Your child will understand more and more of what people are saying.  He will follow requests and instructions with four key words or in two parts, e.g. “Get your coat and stand by the door”. He will understand “Why” questions, listening and responding to questions about experiences, events and stories, including questions about past and future events.  Games link “Simon Says” or musical statues help children develop their listening skills.

  • Can your four year old follow simple two part instructions reasonably well? E.g. “Get the big scissors and some blue paper from the drawer.”
  • Talk about a story you have just read and ask your child a couple of questions. Can they understand simple “why” questions?

Use of words and sentences
By four years old, children can explain their ideas, talk in sentences and talk about things that have happened in the past. They can use longer sentences and link sentences together, e.g. “I had pizza for tea and then I played in the garden.” They can answer questions about “why” something has happened.

  • Can your child explain where they went and what happened? E.g. the child says “Tom and Sarah and me goed park and played on swings.
  • Can they use longer sentences joined up with words like “because”, “or” and “and”? e.g. “I like jelly because it is wobbly.”
  • Are they easily understood by others?

Speech sounds
Your four year old uses most sounds correctly but may still have difficulty with “th”, “r”, “sh”, “ch” and “j”. Children of this age still find sounds within words with several syllables tricky, e.g. escalator. Errors where words have groups of consonants are still common, e.g. “bider” instead of spider.

Any concerns?
It is important to remember that all children are different and your child may develop at a faster or slower rate than others. If your child has a nanny, childminder or goes to nursery talk to them. It is always helpful to have information about how your child talks and communicates in other places.

Learning to talk is a complicated process and no children get it right straight away. Usually children have learned to talk clearly by the time they are four. By this age, usually everyone can understand them, even people who don’t know them very well. Sometimes children can be slow to develop their speech sounds, or find it really difficult, and this can make them hard to understand.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, language and communication development, for example, you think that they communicate less than other children their age, you should contact your health visitor, children’s centre or local speech and language therapist and talk to them about your child. You can contact a speech and language therapist yourself; you do not need to go through your GP or health visitor though Speech and Language Therapy services are run differently depending on where you live. You can get free resources and check out your child’s speech, language and communication development at www.talkingpoint.org.uk

Milestones – By five years

By the age of five, almost all children will be in school.  At this stage they need to learn how to listen, understand and share their ideas within the classroom.  They also need to understand words and phrases used in school that they may not have heard at home – such as “line up”, “packed lunch” and “talk to your partner” etc.

They also still need to have conversations – to share information, to make friends and explain how they are feeling.  They use talk to help work out problems and organise thinking and activities.

Taking part
Your five year old’s attention will be more flexible. Children of this age can understand spoken instructions related to a task without stopping the activity to look at the speaker.  They can focus on and listen to stories when they are sitting with their whole class.  They can pay attention and follow the rules when they are having fun playing board games.   They will choose their own friends.  They will use talk to take on different roles in imaginative play, to interact and negotiate with people and to have longer conversations.

  • Talk to your child about what they enjoyed most during the day – these conversations often include different games or activities they play with friends.
  • Does your child enjoy listening to stories, songs and rhymes and start to make up their own?

Understanding of language
Your child can follow a short sequence of instructions just by listening, rather than stopping to look at the speaker. During a conversation children of this age can answer questions and provide more information when asked. They are beginning to understand time concepts like the days of the week, morning, afternoon, day and night. They can understand more complicated language such as “first”, “last”, “might”, “maybe”, “above” and “in between”. They understand words that describe sequences such as “first we are going to the shop, next we will play in the park”. Simple stories can be followed without pictures.

  • Can your five year old listen for instructions while they are busy with something else? E.g. ask them to get their coat and shoes while they are playing (not TV or computer, as they are too absorbing).
  • Is your child beginning to get the idea of time? E.g. “Mummy will be here after lunch.”
  • Does your child understand a longer list of instructions? E.g. “First get your plate, then sit on the red chair.”
  • If you describe an object or person, can your child guess who or what you are talking about?
  • Can your child predict what will happen next in familiar events and routines?

Use of words and sentences
Your five year old can have conversations. They know lots of words and can use longer sentences that are better formed, e.g. “I had spaghetti for tea at Jamilia’s house”. They can link sentences using words like “and” and “because”. They like to talk about and explain what they are doing. They can talk to you about what they do and do not like.

  • Can your child organise their thoughts and put longer sentences together?
  • Can your child re-tell short stories in roughly the right order and use language that makes it sounds like a story?
  • Can you usually follow what your child is saying?

Speech sounds
Your five year old can use most sounds correctly. Long words like “elephant” can still be tricky, and some speech sounds such as “r” and “th” and three consonant combinations, e.g. “scribble” may still be difficult.

Any problems or concerns?
It is important to remember that all children are different and your child may develop at a faster or slower rate. Here are some signs your five year old may be struggling:

  • Do they regularly get frustrated or give up trying to tell you something?
  • Do they regularly forget the words or miss out important pieces of information?
  • Do they sound muddled and disorganised in their talking?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, language and communication development, for example, you think that they communicate less than other children their age, you should contact your child’s school or local speech and language therapist and talk to them about your child. You can contact a speech and language therapist yourself; you do not need to go through your GP or health visitor though Speech and Language Therapy services are run differently depending on where you live. You can get free resources and check out your child’s speech, language and communication development at www.talkingpoint.org.uk


Above write up is by Words for Life. Please visit their website for more information.

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About Rei

A mother of 2 who loves travel, food, shopping, face mask and Sale!
This entry was posted in Articles, Parent & Baby and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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