Preschooler play: why it’s important for talking development
Play is the main way that young children develop, learn and explore the world.
Playing with your child gives you many opportunities to talk. And the more you play and talk together, the more words your child hears. This also gives your child the chance to practise making new words and having longer conversations. This improves your child’s talking skills and helps their brain develop.
When you spend time talking and playing together, it strengthens your relationship with your child. And a strong relationship with you is essential to development, because it gives your child the confidence to keep exploring and learning.
What to expect: preschoolers and talking
At 3-4 years, your preschooler will probably:
- be able to ask more complex questions
- speak with better but not perfect grammar
- say sentences with 5-6 words.
By five years, your preschooler will probably:
- be able to say their name and address
- be able to speak clearly using sentences of up to nine words
- have meaningful conversations and tell you detailed stories.
Your preschooler is likely to be keen to talk with you, their friends and other family members as much as possible in these years. It’s really good for your child’s language if you listen and talk with them.
In fact, children at this age often have so much news to share that they sometimes stumble over the words, stutter and get frustrated – this is common and OK. Just give your preschooler time and keep listening. Your child will get the words out eventually.
If you’re raising multilingual or bilingual children, you can expect their language development to be similar to preschoolers who speak only one language. Going to child care or preschool can help multilingual and bilingual preschoolers get extra practice speaking and listening to English. This can help prepare them for school.
Play ideas to encourage preschoolers with talking
At this age, children still need plenty of practice and support to develop speech and language. The more often you talk with your preschooler, the more words they’ll learn and use to communicate.
The best way to encourage your child’s language skills is to focus on fun activities like singing songs or reciting nursery rhymes, rather than getting pronunciation or grammar right.
Here are some ideas to encourage preschooler talking through play:
- When you talk with your child, respond to your child’s interests. If your preschooler is interested in cars passing by, take a moment to talk about them.
- Read aloud together. You could also try taking your child to story time at your local library to hear stories. Talk with your child about the stories you read and hear together.
- Tell stories together. Your child will enjoy hearing, remembering and telling you simple stories. Leaving out words in stories and asking your preschooler to fill in the words is fun too.
- Sing songs and make music together.
- Tell simple jokes and riddles. Preschoolers usually enjoy simple word games like finding rhyming words and even making up words.
- Talk about your feelings and name emotions together. If you’re reading a story, you can talk about how the characters might be feeling.
Screen time for preschoolers
Good-quality, age-appropriate screen time can support your child’s learning and language development.
This can happen when your preschooler enjoys screen time as part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about balancing screen time with other activities that are good for your child’s development, like physical play, reading and socialising.
If you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s development, including talking and language development, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s educator or visit your GP, paediatrician or child and family health nurse for advice.