By Raising Children Network
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Your chatty toddler probably had a vocabulary of about 300 words, and he could speak in sentences of about five or six words. By your child’s fourth birthday his language skills are likely to have developed a lot more, giving him a vocabulary of about 1500 words.

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The more words your child hears, the more words shell learn.


What to expect

Your preschooler will probably:

  • be able to ask more complex questions with better grammar after age three
  • use increasingly sophisticated language
  • say sentences of 5-6 words by age four, increasing to eight-word sentences by age five
  • be able to say her name and address by age five
  • use about 1500 words at age four, and learn another 1000 words by age five
  • be able to speak clearly and have meaningful conversations with you between the ages of five and six.

By five, your child will learn about another 1000 words and will delight you with detailed stories, real and imaginary, using sentences of up to eight words in length.

Your six-year-old will probably be comfortably communicating (though she will sometimes still get muddled – don’t we all?). Understanding tenses will still be a challenge.

Research shows that your child’s language will benefit greatly if you listen and chat with him. Your preschooler is likely to be keen to talk to you, his friends and other family members as much as possible in these years. In fact, kids this age often have so much news to share that they stumble over the words and get frustrated. This is common. Your child will get the words out in his own time if you have the patience to just listen.

Play ideas to encourage talking

The more often you talk to, or around, your preschooler, the better his chance of developing a sizeable vocabulary. The best way to encourage your child’s language skills is to focus on fun activities such as singing songs or reciting nursery rhymes, rather than correcting pronunciation or grammar.

Some of the best ways to encourage talking through play include:

  • reading aloud together – your child will delight in memorising simple stories (one of the first steps towards reading) and ‘reading’ the story to you
  • making reading part of your daily routine – try taking your child to reading times held at the local library, providing her with a different experience of listening to stories
  • sitting down and simply talking with your child
  • singing songs together
  • listening to CDs of stories or songs in the car
  • telling basic jokes and riddles.

All children develop at their own pace. If you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s development, it’s a good idea to visit your health professional.

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  • Last Updated 24-12-2010
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009
  • Manning-Morton, J., & Thorp, M. (2003). Key times for play: The first three years. Philadelphia: Open University Press.