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Language development - age 3 to 4 years


Children vary in how they develop speech and language skills. However, they follow a natural timetable for mastering the skills of language. Below is a checklist of normal speech and language milestones in children 3 to 4 years of age.

At 3 to 4 years, your child should be able to do the following:

  • Talk in sentences of 4 or more words. People outside of the family are able to understand him
  • Talk about activities (what was done in preschool that day) easily and fluently
  • Understand and answer simple who, what, and where questions
  • Know action words and understand size concepts, such as big and little, and location concepts, such as on, under, behind 
  • Know what objects are used for (What do you do with a cup?)
  • Ask and answer yes and no questions (Is he tall?)
  • Listen to short stories read aloud

What you can do to help

  • Sort pictures and items into categories. Challenge your child by asking him to point out the item that does not belong in a category. For example, a baby does not belong with a dog, cat, and mouse. Tell your child that you agree with his answer because a baby is not an animal.
  • Expand vocabulary and length of your child’s sentences by reading, singing, talking about what you are doing and where you are going, and saying rhymes.
  • Read books that have a simple plot. Talk about the story line. Help your child to retell the story or act it out with props and dress-up clothes. Tell him your favorite part of the story and ask for his favorite part.
  • Look at family pictures and have your child explain what is happening in each one.
  • Work on comprehension skills by asking your child questions about what has been read. Have him try to fool you with his own questions.
  • Talk about what you are doing during daily activities, such as cooking (I’m cutting up the vegetables).
  • Ask questions that require a choice. (Do you want an apple or an orange? Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?)

Adapted from materials from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association,


If you have questions about language development, call Rehabilitation Services at 901-595-3621. If you are inside the hospital, dial 3621. If you are outside the Memphis area, call toll-free 1-866-2ST-JUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3621.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).