3 Year Old Speech Milestones

Hearing your child’s first word is such an exciting moment, and it is amazing to watch speech and language skills begin to develop and flourish. Many parents are concerned about their children’s speech development and often wonder if their child is reaching their speech milestones when they should. These are all normal and common concerns that are regularly shared with doctors, teachers, and speech therapists by concerned parents and caregivers. The answer to these questions and concerns, generally speaking, is that every child grows and develops differently, and on different timelines. What is considered “normal” for one child could be considered completely atypical for another. That being said, this article will review the milestones that a 3-year-old child might be exploring and working towards between their 3rd and 4th birthdays. 

What is Normal Speech for a 3 Year Old? 

When it comes to speech and language development, there is a wider range of normal. These guidelines refer to typically developing children. It is important to remember that children develop at their own rate, and your child may only be doing some but not all of these things during their 3rd and 4th year. Some of these skills may not be established until closer to the child’s 4th birthday. When looking at skill development, skills can be categorized as either Speech or Language. Speech refers to the ability to make and combine certain sounds, while Language refers to skills related to word comprehension, meaning, and the ability to put sentences together. 

Should a 3-year-old be talking clearly? What sounds should a 3-year-old be able to say?

As the child nears their fourth birthday, their speech should mostly be understood by strangers. It is still common, however, for some children of this age to struggle with certain letter sounds, particularly some of the more challenging sounds such as r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th. In fact, some of these sounds may not be mastered until age 7 or 8. Most 3-year-olds can use consonants in the beginning, middle, and end of a word, while it is normal for the sounds themselves to still be somewhat distorted. 

Some of the other language skills and milestones a 3-year-old may be working on or has already mastered are: 

Vocabulary and Grammar

– Can share what happened that day using 4 or so sentences at a time

– Is using 3-4 word sentences

– Can understand and identify colors and shapes

– Has mastered and regularly employs the use of 250-500 words

– Uses and recognizes simple rhyming words (cat, hat)

Social and Conversational

– Calls others and themselves by name

– Understand the familial language and how it relates to them, mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, etc.

– Enjoys playing with words and language, and appreciates silliness and absurdities such as “Should I put my mittens on my ears?” 

– Understands and participates in the basic give and take of simple conversation

Concept Development

– Can tell a story, recite a poem, and/or sing a song

– Expresses ideas and feelings and not only commentary on surroundings 

– Can describe uses for everyday objects (hairbrush, spoon, towel, etc.)

Answering & Asking Questions

– Can answer simple questions (who, what, when, where) 

– Responds when being called from a different room

– Asks how and when questions

Listening Skills and following Instructions 

– Can understand and follow basic instructions, some with multiple steps (for example: go get your shoes and bring them to the front door.) 

– Can recount a basic story after listening to the story being read aloud

When should I worry about my child’s speech?

Developmental speech milestones can usually be categorized as relating to speech, meaning the way we form specific sounds and words or relating to language, meaning the giving and receiving of information as well as the ability to understand others and be understood. If by the time your child reaches age 4, they are still not mostly understood by strangers or are struggling to understand others, they would likely benefit from the support and treatment of a registered speech therapist or speech language pathologist. A speech therapist will also be able to help identify whether the challenges your child may be having are related more to speech or language development. You can read more about how to know when you should connect with a speech therapist here.

How can I support my child’s language and speech development at home?

There are lots of ways to support your child’s speech and language progression at home. Here are a few ideas:

Magazine cutouts – Cut out photos from magazines and use them to make silly stories, sort them into categories, play games such as “one of these is not like the others” etc.

Talk – the best thing you can do to support your child’s language development is to simply take the time to talk to them, explain things as you do them, sing songs together, talk about where you go and what you do. Use rhyming words, songs, and poems to help them learn new words, word combinations, and sentences. 

Read – Reading to your child is vitally important to the development and advancement of speech and language skills. 

Play – Play is an incredibly powerful learning tool. Things that may seem simple or silly to us, like role playing or acting out daily activities, can be very helpful to a developing child and their language. 

As was mentioned at the beginning of this article, every child grows and develops in their own unique way. These milestones are meant as a guideline for parents and caregivers, as well as a source of ideas and examples of what skills they can help their child to develop, and what milestones they can help them reach. All of our speech therapists at Great Speech are committed to bringing fun, innovation, and interactive therapeutic exercises and activities, to keep your child engaged, motivated, and excited about learning and meeting their goals. There are so many benefits to connecting with a speech therapist online. It is safe and convenient and has an added element of technology and interactive online tools that children are naturally attracted to and excited by. If you are concerned about the speech and/or language development of your toddler or preschooler, get in touch with us and let us tell you how one of our highly specialized speech therapists can help guide and support your child. Online speech therapy is accessible for everyone, and we strive to support children, teens, and adults while helping them to meet their goals here.

Schedule an introductory call today to discuss how a licensed speech and language pathologist can help your child achieve their goals.

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