Preschool Development : Communication

What might my preschooler do?

Happy Kids

This is a time when vocabulary is continually growing and the meaning and sentence structure of their language is becoming more complex. This change in language represents the development of cognitive (thinking) abilities. Preschoolers depend on language to make their wants and needs known, solve problems, ask questions and play with others.

The following are guidelines taken from a number of sources. They will help you know what to expect and encourage next with your child’s language development, or when to consider a referral to a speech language therapist. It does not include everything and it is important to remember that there is variation in children’s language development.

Milestones for your preschooler at 3-4 years old:

  • Enjoys books, simple songs, nursery rhymes, silly words, and stories
  • Has a vocabulary of 900 or more words
  • Most of what they say can be understood
  • Puts words together to form 3-4 word sentences
  • Asks and answers “who”, “what”, and “where” questions
  • Asks LOTS of questions
  • Likes to talk and have conversations with people
  • Uses proper grammar most of the time
  • Uses pronouns “I”, “you” and “me”
  • Knows their name, gender, street name, and a number of nursery rhymes
  • Knows some prepositions (position words) such as in, on, and under
  • Often makes mistakes with negatives and use “double negatives” ie: “I don’t not want to go”
  • Follows a 3 part command
  • Begins to recognize some letters and words (e.g. recognizes "stop" sign, the "M" for MacDonalds, etc.)
  • Sorts (match) objects by: function (find something you play with, wear, etc); size (big, little); familiar colors.
  • Names one color
  • Is developing number concepts – can give you 1, more, or all of something
  • Counts objects, even if they don’t have all the numbers correct.
  • May repeat sounds, words, or phrases (may sound like stuttering)
  • Stays with one activity for 8-9 minutes

Red Flags for Communication Skills

If your 4-5 year old preschooler shows 2 or more of the following, make a referral to a speech-language therapist to ensure your child is not having difficulties with developing communication skills:

  • Little interest in talking to adults or children
  • Sentences are not growing in length or complexity
  • Poor sorting or matching skills
  • Difficulty answering questions: what, what-doing, where
  • Not asking who, what, or where questions
  • Not easily understood by family members or familiar people in their life

Milestones to watch for with your preschooler at 4-5 years old:

  • Continues to learn lots of new words very quickly
  • Vocabulary of 4,000 – 6,000 words
  • Uses sentences of 4-6 words
  • Talks a lot and about everything they are doing or thinking
  • Tells long stories about own personal experiences
  • Asks “who” and “why” questions
  • Interested in explanations for their “how” and “why” questions
  • Understands and uses “tomorrow” and “yesterday”
  • Uses past, present and future tense, mostly, but not always, correctly
  • Interested in written words, letters and numbers.
  • Matches and sorts objects in a large variety of ways
  • Understands prepositions (e.g. beside, behind, in front)
  • Stays with an activity for 11-12 minutes

Red Flags for Communication Skills

If your 3-5 year old preschooler shows 2 or more of the following, make a referral to a speech-language therapist to ensure your child is not having difficulties with developing communication skills:

  • Little interest in talking to adults or children
  • Sentences are not growing in length or complexity
  • Poor sorting or matching skills
  • Difficulty answering questions: what, what-doing, where
  • Not asking who, what, or where questions
  • Not easily understood by family members or familiar people in their life