Your Child’s Speech & Language: 4 Years to 5 Years

Well we’ve made it through the first 4 years of your child’s life and here we are at the last year before she enters kindergarten. Kindergarten. As I type this, my own daughter will be 4 in a couple weeks and next year she will go to a transitional kindergarten program (like a Pre-K) as her birthday is after the regular under cut off. It feels like just yesterday that I gave birth to her, my first born, and soon she will be in elementary school. But how will her speech and language skills be developing in this last year at home? Let’s find out.

Cognitive/Pre-Academic Development

As I mentioned in my last post, this time between 3-5 years your little one will be learning a LOT of pre academic skills. Numbers, letters, counting, shapes, and basic concepts. How much and how quickly she learns will vary from child to child based on exposure and interest. It is interesting looking at incoming kindergartners and seeing what skills they come in with. Some children come into kindergarten being able to write their name and can ID all their letters and might even be starting to learn to read, while other will come in with much less skills and yet both children remain in the “normal” range of development.

Another cool concept that your little ones start to “get” around now is the concept of rhyming. This is SUCH an important pre literacy skill. My daughter at almost 4 is just beginning to “get” this and I am sure soon will be rhyming like crazy!

Check out my last post for more information on this area of development.

Receptive Language

Your child is learning new words every day and it will start to surprise you what she can understand now! In fact she is understanding over 2500 words! You will be able to read her stories and she will be able to answer who, what, where, how and why questions about the story (and not just the pictures). She will be able to follow three step directions and should have little difficulties listening and following directions in a preschool class room.

Your child should be able to listen to a description of an item, and be able to understand it and tell you what you are talking about. For example, if you said “I’m thinking of a round thing that bounces” she should be able to tell you it’s a ball. She should also be able to answer questions that require some logic and problem solving like “What do you do when you are thirsty?” She should have a good understanding of basic spacial concepts like under, next to, in front and quantitive concepts like more and most and she should be able to follow simple directions that incorporate them. She should be able to understand simple analogies like “You sleep in a bed, you sit on a ________.” She should be able to understand pronouns and negatives in sentences. And if she doesn’t understand something, she should be asking you questions to clarify.

Expressive Language

As I talked about in my last post, your child between ages 3-5 will be making a lot of progress in the area of syntax and semantics (grammar). In fact, your child’s speech should be starting to sound very much like adult speech in the terms of grammar. Her sentences should generally be in the right word order (with occasional errors) and she should be starting to use irregular verbs (like went rather than goed or ate rather that eated) though she will not be consistent with these quite yet and should be using possessives (the cat’s tail or the boy’s hat). She should be using plurals and beginning to use irregular plurals (like children rather than childs). She should be using all pronouns accurately most of the time (I, you, me, he, she) but may still have occasional errors.

What get’s really exciting at his time is storytelling and narration skills. Your child will start to tell long stories (either real or made up) and  she will be able to retell stories that she has been read. She also will be asking a lot of questions. Who, what where, why when….she will be asking about everything. She may ask the same question several times even.

Speech and Articulation Skills

Your child’s speech should be 80-100% intelligible (understandable) to everyone despite some age appropriate articulation errors (like /r/, /l/ and “th” and maybe “sh” and “ch” as well.) If you or strangers have difficulties understanding your child’s speech at age four, I encourage you to get a screening through your local school district (if you are in the US). Read my post on phonological delays as well as my post on articulation delays for some more in depth information on this topic. But the bottom line is that if your child is hard to understand, have him looked at at least. Children with early speech and language delays are more at risk for later learning issues so get treatment early (if it’s needed).

And as I talked about last week, your child may exhibit some stuttering like behavior during this time of rapid speech and language development. There is a *normal* level of this behavior but if you are concerned, it is best to have an SLP at least take a look, especially if your child appears to get *stuck* on words (where no sound actually comes out) or if he is becoming frustrated or if he is making odd facial expressions or body movements while trying to speak. These can be signs of a more serious issue that would need intervention. You can read more about stuttering HERE.

Social and Play Skills

Oh get ready for the drama, mama. This is age when she will be getting very dramatic in her play (and her attitude, if she is anything like my own daughter!) She will be using her dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys to act out little play scenes. Her play will continue to get more and more involved and her play schemes will continue to get more creative.

If she wasn’t starting to get into arts and crafts (cutting, pasting, coloring, painting) you might stat to see more interest in these activities now. She may not want to do things exactly like you show her to do, and she may want to try things her way. It is also during this time that her friendships with other children should be getting stronger and she should have special bonds with some peers. In groups, you will see her play well with 1-4 other children and group games might be starting. For example, this is the age that the girls and boys might start to form groups and play chase games or they might get in small groups to play “house” with a mommy, daddy, and various brothers, sisters and babies. It is a FUN time!

Final Thoughts

Well, in the last two months we have covered speech and language development from birth to age five. Your little newborn that did little more than cry five years ago is now speaking in full sentences, telling stories, talking about the past and the future. She is engaging in very dramatic pretend play and is forming close friendships with her peers. She is learning about colors, shapes, letters, numbers and might even be starting to make some connections between letters and the sounds they make. She is starting to understand what “rhyming” means and it starting to gain some other phonological awareness skills.

She is a communicator!

I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Be sure to check out all the other installments if you missed any. Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear!

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development: Birth to 6 Months

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development: 6-12 Months

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development: The First Word

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development: 12-18 Months

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development: 18-24 Months

Your Child’s SPeech and Language Development 24-36 Months

Your Child’s Speech and Language Development 3 Years to 4 Years


American Speech-Language Hearing Association Website (2011). How does your child hear and talk? Birth to one year. Retrieved from (9-1-2012)

Lanza, J.R. & Flahive, L.K. (2008). LinguiSystems guide to communication milestones: 2009 Edition. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc. Retrieved from (9-1-2012)

McLaughlin, S. (1998). Introduction to language development.  San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, INC.

DISCLAIMER: There is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to children’s development. The age ranges used in this series are only estimates. Please remember that this information is for educational purposes only and in no way replaces the assessment by a qualified medical professional. If you feel your child has delays in his/her communication skills, please speak to your pediatrician or locate a speech pathologist in your area for an assessment. Be sure to read the full TERMS OF USE on this site for more info. For tips on how to find an SLP in your area read HERE.

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About Katie

Katie is a licensed, credentialed and certified pediatric speech-language pathologist and mom to three (5, 3 and 9 months). Her passion about educating, inspiring and empowering parents of children with all abilities led her to start her blog Playing With Words 365 where she shares information about speech and language development, therapy ideas and tips, intervention strategies and a little about her family life too. Katie has been working in the field of speech pathology for 9 years and is certified in The Hanen Centre’s It Takes Two to Talk ® and Target Word ® programs and holds a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition to blogging and being a mommy, Katie works part time in her small private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. rochelle shelton says:

    hello i was looking in to getting speech classes for my kids and would like to get information about it

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