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Speech and Language Development (2-5 years)

Studies have shown the relationship between language development in early childhood and later success in reading. Parents and other family members have great influence on a child’s development of language and other pre-literacy skills.

Between the ages of 2 years and 5 years, most children learn a great deal. The number of words they can say increases quickly. They talk more and they ask lots of questions. They enjoy listening to stories and music. Often they will ask you to read the same story over and over again. Sometimes they will remember the words so well, it will seem like they can almost read. By the time your child is ready to go to school, he or she should be able to speak and listen well.

The following information is a guideline of speech and language development in toddlers and preschoolers.

By 2-3 years

Most children will:

  • use short sentences, like "me do it", daddy going car'
  • follow simple directions, like "Put the teddy bear to bed"
  • place something in the right spot if you say to put it "in", "on", "under"
  • have a conversation with family members or other familiar people
  • listen to stories and answer simple questions
  • begin to add endings to words, such as running, toys

When to call for help?

  • Your child acts frustrated when trying to talk.
  • You have a hard time understanding what your child says
  • Your child does not put more than 2 words together
  • Your child does not listen well.

By 3 to 4 years

Most children will:

  • use sentences of 4 to 6 words
  • give directions like "fix this for me"
  • ask many questions like what, where, or why
  • tell about things they have done
  • talk to themselves and their toys
  • tell a story or sing a song
  • tell you when they are tired

When to call for help?

  • Your child repeats words but does not seem to understand.
  • Your child stutters.
  • Other people have a hard time understanding what your child says
  • Your child uses words in an unusual way.

How you can help your child learn at this age

  • Listen as your child talks to you. Nod your head or smile to show you understand. Answer when your child asks you a question.
  • Let your child play with other children.
  • Talk about how things are the same and how they are different.
  • Help your child tell about feelings and ideas.
  • Use words or sounds that your child finds difficult. Have your child look at your mouth as you say the sound clearly.
  • Read longer stories. Encourage your child to tell stories using books and pictures.
  • Ask questions that encourage your child to talk.

By 5 years

Most children will:

  • use sentences that sound almost like an adult
  • be able to say most speech sounds correctly
  • explain what familiar words mean
  • use sentences to describe objects and events
  • explain how to solve a simple problem
  • follow related directions, like "get your crayons, make a picture, and put it on the fridge"

When to call for help?

  • Your child does not use complete sentences.
  • Your child does not like talking to other children.
  • Your child has trouble following directions.