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Talking: school-age children

5-6 years

At six years old, your child will probably be communicating well, although children of this age can still get tangled up in tenses.  By around eight years, children have sorted out most language difficulties. Here are play ideas to help with your child’s language skills.

What to expect: school-age language skills

By 6-7 years, your child will probably:

  • want to talk to you, friends and other family members as much as possible
  • like to tell jokes and riddles
  • talk confidently with familiar grown-ups
  • describe complicated situations
  • express a range of ideas
  • read aloud
  • have an increased vocabulary
  • talk on the phone if he wants to.

Your six-year-old will probably be talking and understanding quite easily, but sometimes she might still get words or sentences muddled up. Understanding tenses (past, present and future) is still a challenge.

By 7-8 years, your child will have the language skills to explain thoughts and ideas, join in conversations, and tell you in detail what happened during his day.

School-age children can sometimes have so much news to share that they stumble over words and get frustrated. Give your child time to answer and she’ll get the words out eventually. When you listen patiently, it tells your child that what she has to say is important to you.

You can get your child talking by asking open-ended questions like, ‘What did you enjoy about school today?’ These questions encourage more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and can help your child to talk about tricky topics.

Play ideas to boost school-age language skills

It’s really good for your child’s language skills if you take the time to listen and chat together. This reminds your child that conversation involves both listening and talking.

Here are play ideas to encourage talking and help to improve your child’s vocabulary:

  • Read together: encourage your child to choose what he wants to read. You and your child can also take turns reading aloud and listening.
  • Sing songs together.
  • Play simple word games – for example, think of words that rhyme with ‘frog’.
  • Listen to stories and songs or play games in the car – for example, ‘I Spy’ is a fun game that encourages children to think about sounds and letters. 
  • Tell jokes and riddles. 
  • Make time to chat about your day. This could be over a family meal or when you go for a walk together. Talking together also builds your relationship with your school-age child.

Try to limit your school-age child’s screen time. Screen time includes all screens – phones, DVDs, tablets and computers – not just TV. Children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours of screen time a day. Children who have too much screen time might have poorer language skills and smaller vocabularies when they’re older.

All children develop at their own rate. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech – for example, a stutter or the mispronunciation of certain letters at seven or eight – it might be a good idea to see a health professional.

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Last updated or reviewed
05-02-2016

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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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