Communication Milestones for 4-year-olds
At 4, your child is a fully-fledged preschooler. This year between 3 and 4 is one of immense growth. They stretch out, get taller, lose some of their baby looks and turn into little individuals who are getting to tackle the world solo when they take off for preschool. There’s no doubt about it, 4-year-olds are bundles of fun and quirky conversations.
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 4-years, your child should be
Understood by at least 80% of people outside the family
Have a vocabulary between 1,500 and 1,600 words
Follows 3-step directions without any cues
Listen to a short story and can answer questions about it
Understanding most of what is said at home and preschool
Following simple instructions involving things that are not present
Answering ‘when’ questions
Answering ‘how many’ questions (up to 4 items)
Understanding describing words such as big, bigger, biggest
Understanding the concept of time with words such as yesterday, today, tomorrow, first, then, next, last week etc
Identifying positional concepts such as first, middle, last
Speak in full sentences with correct grammar
Use all pronouns correctly (they, us, he, she, him, her, his, hers, theirs, myself, ourselves etc)
Ask questions using correct grammar
Uses direct language with justification e.g. ‘stop that, you’re hurting me’
Making up rhymes
Aware of print in books, on signs etc
Understands the sequence of a story
Knowing lots of letter names
Understanding the function and purpose of print
Play and Cognitive Skills
Able to negotiate in play
Using language to reason and solve problems
Using words to invite others to play
Playing competitive games
Talks about imaginative ideas e.g. ‘what if…’
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.