Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Communication Milestones for 3-year-olds
I love 3-year-olds! At the risk of showing my bias, this is my all-time favourite age. By now, your gorgeous baby has grown, passed through toddlerhood and is becoming an independent thinker and planner. They have so many ideas they’re keen to try out, but they are now also developing the ability to talk and reason with you, communicating their ideas. This is the stage that your little person becomes verbally inquisitive and attached to the infamous ‘why’ question. These questions are fun to explore, although somewhat exhausting at times. If you find yourself plagued by your preschooler’s questions, a little tip is to turn them around and ask for their opinion and thoughts.
This checklist will put your mind at rest and help you recognise when that special small person in your life may need some extra support from a speech pathologist.
We will consider typical milestones across the following elements of communication:
Speech: the sounds your child is making and how they are putting them together to make words
Vocabulary: the words your child understands and uses, and how they store them
Receptive Language or Comprehension: how your child understands and responds to language
Expressive Language: the way your child expresses themselves through words and sentences. It includes how they use language and gestures to think and convey their thoughts, feelings and ideas.
Phonological Awareness: how they understand and interpret sounds which leads to literacy
Play and Cognitive Skills: which provide communication opportunities and help your child to develop language for thinking, reasoning and problem-solving
By 3-years, your child should be:
Speaking relatively clearly with a small number of persistent speech error patterns
Easily understood 50% - 75% of the time
Sometimes ‘bumpy’ talking can develop. If this period of stuttering doesn’t resolve within a few weeks, please prioritise a chat with a speech pathologist.
Rapidly expanding their vocabulary to around 1,000 words
Learning new words every week
Using a variety of words for names, actions, locations, descriptions
Following more complex 2-3 -step instructions,
Answering ‘wh’ questions like where, when, who, what, why
Identifying parts of objects, e.g. wheels, steering wheel, door, engine or tail, legs, ears, snout etc
Answering questions about the function of objects e.g. What is a knife for? Why do we need shoes?
Understanding the concept of ‘same’ and ‘different’
Answering simple questions about their day
Sorting objects into groups when asked to, e.g. toys, food, cars
Recognising basic colours
Talking in sentences up to 5 words in length
Using words like ‘and’ or ‘because’
Using pronouns they, us, hers, his, them, her
Using -ing on the end of words
Talking about something in the past
Asking questions like what, who, where
Describing what just happened
Reciting some nursery rhymes
Counting to at least 5
Expresses feelings and ideas
Having conversations with adults, but not necessarily staying on topic
Playing around with sounds
Beginning to pick words that start with the same sound
Recognising logos (e.g. McDonalds)
Showing a difference between writing and drawing - making squiggles to represent letters
Talks about characters in books
Likes to “read” to self and others
Play and Cognitive Skills
Beginning acting out whole scenes in dramatic play
Sorting objects by colour
Playing with other children
Practising conversations by talking to themselves
Shows signs of frustration if not understood
If you are concerned that your child is not meeting these early communication milestones, it is the right time to see a speech pathologist. It is always best to seek help early and never take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
A speech pathologist will be able to assess your child’s communication skills and give you advice and strategies to encourage your child’s development.
At Newcastle Speech Pathology, we are passionate about helping children develop their communication skills and supporting their families because clear communication unlocks opportunities. Contact us to see how we can help you and your child.