By your child’s fourth birthday, his language skills have developed a lot. He enjoys talking and asking questions, even if he makes some mistakes. Here are some play ideas to help preschoolers with talking and language.

What to expect: preschoolers and talking

At 3-4 years, your preschooler will probably:

  • be able to ask more complex questions and speak with better but not perfect grammar 
  • say sentences with 5-6 words.

By five years, your preschooler will probably:

  • be able to say her name and address
  • be able to speak clearly using sentences of up to nine words
  • have meaningful conversations and tell you detailed stories.

Your preschooler is likely to be keen to talk to you, his friends and other family members as much as possible in these years. It’s really good for your child’s language if you listen and talk with him.

In fact, children at this age often have so much news to share that they sometimes stumble over the words, stutter and get frustrated – this is common and OK. Just give your preschooler time and keep listening. Your child will get the words out eventually. 

If you’re raising bilingual children, you can expect their language development to be similar to preschoolers who speak only one language. Going to child care or preschool can help bilingual preschoolers get extra practice speaking and listening to English. This can help prepare them for school.

Play ideas to encourage preschoolers with talking

At this age children still need lots of practice and support to develop speech and language. The more often you talk with or around your preschooler, the more words she’ll learn and use to communicate.

The best way to encourage your child’s language skills is to focus on fun activities like singing songs or reciting nursery rhymes, rather than getting pronunciation or grammar right.

Here are some ideas to encourage talking through play:

  • When you talk with your child, respond to your child’s interests. If your toddler is interested in cars passing by, take a moment to talk about them.
  • Read aloud together. You could also try taking your child to story time at your local library where he can listen to stories being read.
  • Tell stories together: your child will enjoy hearing stories. She’ll also like remembering and telling you simple stories. Leaving out words in stories and asking your preschooler to fill in the words is fun too.
  • Sing songs together.
  • Play stories and songs in the car.
  • Tell simple jokes and riddles. Preschoolers usually enjoy simple word games like finding rhyming words and even making up words. 

Screen time for preschoolers
Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than one hour of screen time a day. Too much screen time can affect language development. It’s best if you get involved in your preschooler’s screen time by watching or playing together. 

All children develop at different rates. But if you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s development, including his talking and language development, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s educator or visit your GP, paediatrician or child and family health nurse for advice.

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Last updated or reviewed
17-11-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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