What language skills are expected from a five-year-old child?

By age five, children should be correctly producing speech sounds such as; /m/, /n/, /w/, /h/, /ing/, /y/, /b/, /p/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /f/, /v/, /l/, /sh/, /ch/ and blends. It is not uncommon for children to have not yet fully mastered sounds such as /s/, /r/, /l/ and /th/.

Your child should be producing well-formed, grammatically correct sentences to be understood by most people. In conversation, you will notice that your child will take turns in conversation to allow for increasingly longer conversations. They will tell simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end. They should also be able to recall events and express what happened.  For example, give a detailed response about events that occurred during their day.  When speaking, your child should be using past and future verbs correctly (e.g., ‘went’ and ‘will go’).  Your child will start to realize that there are exceptions to grammatical rules- for example, we say ‘broke’, ‘threw’, and ‘ate’ rather than ‘breaked’, ‘throwed’ and ‘eated.’

Your child should be following three-part instructions (e.g., ‘put on your shoes, get your backpack and go to the car.’) They should also understand these instructions without having to stop and listen carefully. Children should start to understand time related words such as ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘now’ and ‘later.

They should also begin to recognize some letters, sounds and numbers. Children will also identify words that begin with the same sounds, for example, “mummy made marshmallows.’ They can also spot words that rhyme, like ‘bat’, ‘hat’, ‘mat’ and ‘sat.’

By age five children develop what is called pragmatic language skills.  Pragmatic language skills refer to the social language skills we use in our daily interactions with others.  They include what we say, how we say it, our body language, and whether it is appropriate to the given situation.  Pragmatic skills are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Children with poor pragmatic skills often misinterpret what others are saying and have difficulty responding appropriately either verbally or non-verbally.  Some examples of pragmatic language skills include, asking for, giving, and responding to information; turn taking; maintaining eye contact during conversations; introducing and maintaining topics of conversation; and making relevant contributions to a topic.  In addition, five year old children should be asking questions; avoiding information that is not necessary to the conversation; asking for clarification; adjusting their language based on situation; using humour; offering/responding to expressions of affection appropriately; use language to resolve disputes; use words to invite others to play; and use direct requests with justification. (e.g., ‘stop that, you’re hurting me.’)

A good way to help develop your child’s language skills is by engaging them in conversation, reading books, and asking questions.  Please also keep in mind that the milestones discussed here are based on research about typically-developing children.  This information is not meant to diagnose a speech-language delay or disorder.  There is a wide range of “normal” and even if your child is slightly delayed in these language, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a speech or language delay. Please contact a Speech Pathologist for a screening if you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills.

Written by;

Dr. Raj Khillan

Director Western Specialist Centre

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