Speech Milestones For Ages 3 to 5 Years of Age

By AASLDecember 9, 2020

Childhood development is complex. Between speech and language development, and the variability between children, it’s not always easy to tell if your child’s development is considered “typical.” If you’re worried that your child’s speech development may be atypical, here is a tool for you to use. These are the developmental milestones in speech that average children meet by certain ages.

1. Between 3 and 4 years, typical development includes:

Hearing and Understanding

  • Responds when you call from another room
  • Understands words for some colors and shapes (i.e. red, blue, green…circle, square etc.)
  • Understands words for family members (i.e. sister, grandma, aunt, etc.)
  • By 4 years old comprehends up to 5,600 words
  • Understands common opposites (i.e. light-dark, fast-slow)
  • Understands concepts like more/less, spatial locations like next to
  • Knows full name, name of street, and several nursery rhymes
  • Responds to questions appropriately
  • By 4 years old, understands most preschool stories appropriately


  • Answers simple who, what, where questions and asks when, how, why questions
  • Uses around 1,000 words to communicate
  • Labels most things in the environment
  • Relates experiences by talking about what happened in the day
  • Uses pronouns (i.e. I, you, me, we, they)
  • Uses some plural words (i.e. toys, dogs, cars)
  • Says rhyming words (i.e. cat-hat, mop-hop)
  • Can sing songs by 4 years old
  • Will fill the last word in a sentence (i.e. The apple is on the ______ tree)
  • Begins using more complex verb phrases and connects utterances using words like “and” and conjunctions like “because”
  • Begins using should, could, would
  • Begins using embedded utterances (i.e. The girl who had the red dress played with me)
  • By 4 years old, uses mostly complete sentences, using about 4 sentences at at time to communicate, and may make some mistakes still (i.e. I goed to Grandma’s house)
  • Uses negation when talking (i.e. no, not, can’t, won’t, don’t)
  • Begins using complex and compound sentences (i.e. I can eat and play)
  • Uses more irregular forms (children, mice, feet)
  • Uses “and” as a conjunction and begins to use “because” by 4 years old
  • Uses is, are, am in sentences
  • Using reflexive pronoun “myself” and pronouns “you, they, us, them, I, me”
  • Begins using “is” at the start of questions
  • Using plural forms correctly (i.e. runs, lights, boys)
  • Socially, they can maintain a conversation without losing track of the topic and will begin to modify speech according to the age of the listener by 3 years old (i.e. will talk more simplified to a younger child), uses a lot of requests in the form of yes/no and -wh questions, and responds with structures such as yes/no/because and expresses agreement/denial, compliance, refusal.

You may want to see a speech-pathologist if you have concerns about your child meeting any of the above milestones and has difficulty responding to questions, understanding stories, and concepts, has difficulty labeling things around them, is not using more advanced grammar to communicate like negation, verbs and verb tenses, conjunctions, pronouns, asking a wide variety of questions and speaking in full, complete sentences. At this age, your child should be understood 85% of the time by others, with fewer errors in pronouncing sounds in words. If your child has difficulty engaging with peers at school and is struggling to make friends, you may want to have your child’s social skills assessed as well.


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