Pre-School Language Development

By Age One
 Child does/says:  Child understands:
2-3 words other than “mama”, “dada”
responds to own name
imitates words/sounds
points to objects of interest
looks at objects when hears the word
understand simple commands
e.g. come here, sit down
points to 2 body parts
Activities to Encourage Language Development
  • Respond to your child’s babbling by imitating their sounds.
  • Label the names of objects your child looks at, points to, or reaches for.
  • Sing nursery rhymes and songs to your child and show them the hand movements that go with the song (e.g. itsy bitsy spider).
  • Interpret your child’s sounds/words as meaningful. Guess at what your child is saying and put it into a word for him/her.
By Age Two
 Child says:  Child understands:
50+ words
some two-word combinations(e.g. “daddy gone”, “more juice”)
vocabulary of noun and action words
 points to 6 body parts
understands new words rapidly
finds objects not in sight
simple pretend play (e.g. feeding doll)
listens to simple stories
Activities to Encourage Language Development
  • Expand on what your child says by adding one more word. For example your child says “juice” and holds out his cup. You respond “drink juice” or “more juice”.
  • Introduce concepts to your child e.g empty/full, open/close, hot/cold, wet/dry.
  • Read books to your child daily.
By Age Three
 Child says:  Child understands:
300+ words
3 word sentences
(e.g. “baby eating apple”)
using word endings
“ing – “jumping”
plural “s” – two bugs
possessive “s” – mommy’s coat
talks to herself or to dolls
follows two-step directions
(e.g. get your shoes and put them on)
understand concepts like big/little, up/down
child can match colours
Activities to Encourage Language Development
  • Help your child talk about what he/she is doing while playing. Provide a dialogue for them as they are playing with dolls. Have the dolls talking to each other.
  • Get your child more involved when reading stories. For example, encourage them to predict what may happen next, or describe how characters are feeling and why.
Model correct grammar when you hear your child make an error. For example your child says “My baby drink juice”. You respond: “Yes. Baby’s drinking juice”. Slightly exaggerate the word you want her to notice.

By Age Four
 Child says:  Child understands:
 Tells short stories
sentences 5+ words long
uses pronouns correctly
(e.g. he, she, they, we, I)
sings nursery rhymes
 follows most directions easily
understands basic time concepts (e.g. now, later, tomorrow
Activities to Encourage Language Development
  • Encourage your child to re-tell her favorite stories.
  • Teach your child to use the telephone.
  • Encourage your child to sing his/her favorite songs/rhymes.
By Age Five
 Child Says:  Child Understands:
Sentence length of 6+ words
Knows his/her address, phone number
Counts 10 objects
Asks questions for information
Very few grammatical errors
Complex sentences “After lunch let’s play outside”
 Knows spatial relations like “on top”, “behind”, “far”, “near”
Knows “left hand” and “right hand” on self
Complex sentences with concepts “if, because, when”
Activities to Encourage Language Development
  • Encourage your child to make up stories or songs.
  • Encourage pretend play the involves rich dialogue (e.g act out going to the doctor, ordering lunch from a restaurant).
  • Talk to him/her as you would talk to an adult.