Communication milestones for 5-year-olds
5-year-olds should come with an operating manual. They have the idea that they are fully functioning mini-adults and they often want to be treated as such. Well, they are part-way there. By 5 years of age, their brains have reached about 90% of their adult size. They have made huge developmental leaps in terms of their physical abilities and language and thinking skills. They can solve problems and really show off their creativity.
A spectacular feature of 5-year-olds is that they experience a mega burst of language and knowledge. Up until this point in their lives, they have focused on developing their language skills, learning new words and how to express themselves. Now at 5, they are ready to use their language for learning. They ask incredible questions and can make inferences about given circumstances and events. They use their imagination and word knowledge to link information and build new thoughts and ideas. 5-year-olds are standing on the edge of the educational pool and are ready to dive right in.
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 5-years, your child should be:
Understood by everyone
Use most speech sounds correctly, but may still have some difficulty with ‘s, r and th’
Understanding and using between 2,200 and 2,500 words
Thinking about the meaning when hearing new words
Asks the meaning of new words
Understanding instructions without having to stop and listen
Following 3-part instructions such as ‘put on your shoes, get your backpack and get in the car’
Understanding all time-related words e.g. before, now, later, after, yesterday, tomorrow
Answering questions about simple stories they’ve heard
Understanding left and right
Understanding number concepts of up to 20
Repeating sentences up to nine words long
Taking turns in increasingly longer conversations
Telling simple stories with a clear beginning, middle and end
Using past and future tense verbs correctly e.g. ‘went’ and ‘will go’, ‘had’ and ‘will have’, ‘was’, ‘has’
Using words like ‘when, so, because, if’
Asking a variety of questions for information
Using the contractible form of auxiliary verbs e.g. the boy’s running, she’s talking
Using describing words
Using adverbs such as backwards and forwards
Making comparisons such as loud and louder
Using location words such as through, nearest, corner, middle
Recognising letters, sounds and numbers
Able to clap out the syllables they hear in a word
Confidently making rhymes
Able to identify the first sounds in words and tell if another word starts with the same sound
Beginning to use wordplay
Beginning to try writing
Printing their own name
Play and Cognitive Skills
Using threats and promises
Adjusting their communication to meet the needs of unfamiliar people
Engaging in cooperative play such as making group decisions, assigning roles, playing fairly
Announcing a change of topic
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.