Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years - Topic Overview

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

3-year-olds:

  • 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.

4-year-olds:

  • 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

5-year-olds:

  • 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."
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years Topics

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow