3 years - school age

3 years

A young girl smilingAt 3 years your child will be starting to...

  • Use about 500 to 700 words
  • Enjoy make-believe play, e.g. dressing-up
  • Follow longer instructions with three key words e.g., ‘find the cup and put it in Kim’s bag’
  • Use sentences of around 4 or more words
  • Use little grammar words like ‘I, me, a, the,’ and putting ‘ed’ endings on doing words e.g., ‘We walked’’ but will use immature grammar sometimes e.g., ‘shutted’
  • Talk about things that happened in the past and what might happen in the future
  • Ask lots of ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ questions

Read our leaflet for tips on supporting 3 year olds [pdf] 4MB


4 years

A boy laughingAt 4 years old, your child is likely to...

  • Use lots and lots of words – about 1000!
  • Seek out friends to play with
  • Understand words that describe things, like ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, ‘long’ and ‘short’
  • Use linking words in my sentences - e.g.,‘and’, ‘then’
  • Understand language that relates to time e.g., ‘yesterday’, ‘tomorrow’
  • Use basic grammar correctly but still make mistakes e.g., “Mummy, I goed to the park’
  • Need less and less adult help to shift attention from a game to someone speaking and back again
  • Use lots of speech sounds correctly but still find ‘th’, ‘r’, ‘ch’, ‘j’ and ‘l’ hard

Find out how you can support 4 year olds [pdf] 3MB


School age

A girl looking at the cameraThis poster describes the stages of typical language development, with examples of what you might see and hear in a classroom or school environment. Language development in the primary years steadily builds on the solid foundations that are established during the early years. Children’s attention, listening, understanding, vocabulary, speech, grammar, storytelling and conversations all develop further in terms of skills, knowledge and complexity.

Children develop at different rates and this poster tells you what to expect at different ages. Although it is not an assessment, the information could help you identify children who are not developing language skills as expected.

Children with English as an additional language are at the same risk of speech, language and communication needs as any other child, however, this can be more difficult to identify.