Preschool speech and language

Helping your child’s speech development through listening and fun games will help to build their confidence in communication before they start pre-school.

Remember, all children develop at different rates, so it’s best to focus on you and your child, don’t compare your child’s speech to another.

By pre-school, aged 3, your child will likely be able to hold quite long conversations with you, but you may find they still have difficulties with some sounds and word formations.

  • Try not to correct your child when they make a mistake as this can upset and frustrate them. If they have said one word incorrectly, try repeating it back to them correctly, for example “the dun is out,” you reply, “oh yes, the sun is out.” 

  • If you struggle to understand what your child is trying to say, breakdown the sentence to ask them to repeat the words you didn’t understand and if you’re still unsure see if they can act out or point to the thing they’re talking about.

  • If your child gets frustrated show them you’re listening and trying to work out what they want to tell you. You could try asking them some questions to help you. If your child gives up trying, it can help to say they’ve been telling you a lot so they know you’re listening and they’ve been doing great communicating. At this stage it can be helpful to find something else to talk about or an activity to do. 

  • Read with your child regularly. Many children like the same story over and over, the repetition is very good for their speech development.

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