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  • Genna Nichol

Speech and Language Milestones 3–4 Years

Your three- to four-year-old has mastered so much and is getting ready to start kindergarten, where they will continue to develop new skills in many areas. This article provides a list of the typical speech and language milestones most children will achieve at this age.

Developmental milestones young child painting
Young child painting

Play milestones:

  • Like to play with others (may play with 2 or 3 other children in a group)

  • Take turns with other children

  • Engage in more imaginative play beyond common or personal experiences (e.g., fireman rescuing people)

Social milestones:

  • Anticipate the next turn in a conversation

  • Engage in longer conversations

  • Terminate conversation

  • Adapt language to different listeners (i.e., simpler language when talking to very young children)

  • Use fillers to acknowledge another speaker (e.g., okay, yeah)

  • Request permission

  • Repair conversations when not understood and correct others

  • Begin using language for jokes and teasing

  • Infer information from a story and infer indirect meanings

  • Show consideration for conversational partners by commenting on or asking a question about what they have said

Speech milestones

  • Use p, b, m, h, w, k, g, f, t, d, n, s, y (“yuh”), “ing”, and say all vowels correctly

  • Are understood by parents 75-100% of the time

  • Use sounds at the beginning and ends of words

Expressive language milestones:

  • Use pronouns like I, you, me, we, they

  • Ask “when” and “how” questions

  • Put at least 4 words together

  • Use rhyming words (e.g., “cat” and “hat”)

  • Use about 4 sentences at a time to talk about something

  • Use irregular past tense (e.g., “went”, “fell”)

  • Use possessive -s (e.g., mommy’s cup)

  • Begin to use the verb “to be” when it is the only verb in the sentence (e.g., “I am hungry”, “they are happy”)

  • Begin to use articles “a” and “the” (e.g., “a book”, “the book”)

  • Begin to use regular past tense (e.g., “jumped”, “laughed”)

  • Describe activities, feelings, and problems and tells simple stories

Receptive language milestones:

  • Understand words for some colours (e.g., red, blue, green)

  • Understand words for some shapes (e.g., circle, square)

  • Understand words for family (e.g., brother, grandmother)

  • Understand longer what, where, and who questions

  • Follows three-part directions (i.e., go to your room, get the ball, and bring it to me)

  • Are able to identify a variety of descriptive words and concepts: long/short, top/bottom, same/different

  • Understand location words: beside, behind, under

It is important to remember these are milestones for most children at this age, but each child develops at their own rate. However, if your child has not met a significant number of these milestones or if you are concerned with your child's development, please see your family doctor who can do a thorough assessment and suggest next steps.

We offer speech and language assessments and therapy for children of all ages.

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