Preschool speech and language

Speech and language is a really important part of your child’s development and understanding. 

As they start school and are socialising with their peers and new adults, their speech is likely to develop further. 

At age three, children often still use sentences that don’t make sense due to grammar or confusion of where words belong, at age 4 they will likely surprise you with the joining words such as because, obviously and actually. They may still muddle them up from time to time, but you’ll notice sentences getting longer and their speech being more fluent.

Your childrens' little minds are growing and you're a key piece to their growth.

  • You might hear your child role playing or talking to their toys as their imagination boosts. They'll probably start to ask lots of questions as well, including who, where and why? Ensure to engage and answer their questions or join them in pretend play, letting them take the lead. Becoming their racing buddy or fairy princess friend helps them to develop their sounds as they copy you acting out various characters.
  • They’ll be learning new words that sound very long and don’t make sense to them. Be mindful of explaining these words, for example an enormous elephant; explain that enormous means something that’s very very big. 
  • Giving narrative to a child can also help them to develop their speech and language, for example ‘if you wear your sun hat, your head will not get burnt ‘or ‘if we eat our fruit we will become big and strong’. 
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to them like little adults, they’re very inquisitive and interested in what you’re saying.. Be careful not to overwhelm them and keep explanations simple so they understand. 
  • Give them lots of opportunities to chat, ask them what they would like on their sandwich or what’s their favourite toy, then leave silence for them to speak.
  • At pre-school age you might hear some sounds that aren't pronounced such as pider for spider or twain for train, try to repeat and break down the sounds and blend them back together. Or try getting them to say snake, sausage, slippy and then when they’ve mastered the sound S include spider back into the repetition.

The ICAN speech and language website for parents advises that by three and a half years old a child should be understood by people outside the family. If not, parents should seek advice from a speech and language therapist.

You should be concerned if:

  • They’re struggling to turn ideas into sentences

  • The language they use is jumbled and difficult to understand

  • They’re unresponsive or slow to follow instructions

Further support and advice about your child's speech and language:

The Communication Trust

ICAN ages and stages