Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years
Speech and language development milestones relate to receptive language (the ability to understand words and sounds) and expressive language (the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning).
A child's speech and language development becomes more advanced beginning around age 3 through age 5. Receptive language skills during this period become more sophisticated; a child learns to make subtle distinctions between objects and relationships. Also, the child can understand multi-step requests. Most children also gradually speak more fluently and use proper grammar more consistently.
Speech and language milestones
| Receptive language|| Expressive language|
- Follow two-part requests, such as "put your pajamas in the hamper and your slippers in the closet."
- Learn new words quickly; know most common object names.
- Understand the concept of "two."
- Understand gender differences.
- Know their own full name.
- Begin correctly using plurals, pronouns, and prepositions more consistently.
- Frequently ask "why" and "what."
- Often use complete sentences of 3 to 4 words.
- Know the names of colors.
- Understand the difference between things that are the same and things that are different, such as the difference between children and grown-ups.
- Can follow three-step instructions, such as "Go to the sink, wash your hands, and dry them on the towel."
- Use the past tense of words.
- Use sentences of 5 to 6 words.
- Can describe something that has happened to them or tell a short story.
- Can speak clearly enough to be intelligible to strangers almost all of the time.1
- Understand relationships between objects, such as "the girl who is playing ball" and "the boy who is jumping rope."
- Usually can carry on a conversation with another person.
- Often call people (or objects) by their relationship to others, such as "Bobby's mom" instead of "Mrs. Smith."
- Can define words such as "spoon" and "cat."
Andrews JS, Fieldman HM (2011). Language delay. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 331–334. New York: McGraw-Hill.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||December 21, 2012|