Content Map Terms

Language Development: An Amazing Journey


books and alphabet letter blocks

Learning language is a lifelong process and supports your child’s ability to communicate and express feelings. Learning to understand, use and enjoy language is an important first step in literacy, and the basis for learning to read and write.

What can I do to encourage my preschooler’s language development?

The best way to encourage your child’s speech and language development is to talk together frequently and naturally.

  • Introduce new words. It is important for children to be continually exposed to lots of different words in lots of different contexts. This helps them learn the meaning and function of words in their world.
  • Share books with your child and continue to as he grows. Talk about the pictures. Use a variety of books, and link what is in the book to what is happening in your child’s life. Books with interesting pictures are a great focus for talking. Your local library is a great source of new books to keep things fresh.
  • Follow your child’s lead in conversations. If she initiates a conversation through talking, gesture or behaviour, respond to it, making sure you stick to the topic your child started.
  • Talk about things in the past and in the future. At the end of the day, talk about plans for the next day – for example, making the weekly shopping list together or deciding what to take on a visit to grandma. Similarly, when you come home from a shared outing, talk about it.

What can I expect?

2-3 years
She’ll be able to speak in longer, more complex sentences, and use more and more speech sounds properly when she speaks. She might play and talk at the same time. Strangers will probably be able to understand most of what she says by the time she’s three.

3-5 years
Now that your child is a preschooler, you can expect longer, more abstract and complex conversations. He’ll probably also want to talk about a wide range of topics, and his vocabulary will continue to grow. He might well show that he understands the basic rules of grammar, as he experiments with more complex sentences. And you can look forward to some entertaining stories, too.

Find out more about language development from 3-4 years and 4-5 years.

5-6 years
During the early school years, your child will learn more words and start to understand how the sounds within language work together. She will also become a better storyteller, as she learns to put words together in a variety of ways and build different types of sentences.

Find out more about language development from 5-6 years.

Did you know? Developmental milestones are only guidelines. Children grow and develop at different rates, and no child exactly fits a description of a particular age. If you have any concerns, check with your public health nurse or family doctor.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years 
HealthLink BC: Encouraging Language Development in Your Preschooler 
HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Development: Red Flags 
HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Delays: Common Misconceptions 
HealthLink BC: Speech Problems: Normal Disfluency (stuttering) 

Last Updated: November 30, 2014