How Does a Three-Year-Old Child Communicate Best

As your three-year-old child’s ability to express themselves and understand language is continually developing, there are certain milestones that you should be aware of when observing your child’s skills.  There is a wide range of “normal” and just because your child is slightly delayed in a few of these areas, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a speech or language delay.  Below are a variety of skills that your three-year-old will begin to acquire.

Your child should start to be able to follow more complex two part instructions (e.g. give me the teddy and get then get your shoes.) They should also start to understand simple questions, including ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘who’ questions. You should observe that they will also beginning to ask simple questions. They will begin to recognise and label some basic colours. They will also develop the skill of categorization such as sorting items into groups such as foods versus toys.

By age three, an unfamiliar adult should understand your child most of the time. Your three-year-old child should speak sentences of about four to five words. They should begin to use a variety of words for names, actions, locations and descriptions. You will notice that your child will begin to have a conversation, however, do not expect that they have learned appropriate turn taking skills, or that they are easily able to stay on topic.  They will also develop the skill of talking about things that have happened in the past.

As they are just acquiring this skill, they will make mistakes and not use the correct grammatical form of the word. It is very important to expose your child to a range of age-appropriate books. Try and make time to read to your child, as they will develop key speech and language skills from this simple and enjoyable task. Reading books is key in developing phonological awareness and pre-reading skills. You will notice that by age three, your child will be able to sustain their attention during story time for longer periods. Please contact a speech-language pathologist for a screening if you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills.


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Written by Dr Raj Khillan,          

Director Western Specialist Centre


and, Dr Malini Singh, Psychologist, Change for Life

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