Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy 4th Birthday, Baby! Speech and Language Skills that a 4 Year Old Will Develop

by Lauren Barnett, MA, CCC-SLP


My son just turned four! It seems unbelievable to me because I feel like just the other day he was this little  bundle of joy who couldn't do anything for himself! Now, he is becoming a very independent little man!

I love to take milestone moments like birthdays as reminders to look at what my children should be doing at their current age.

So let's look together at the speech and language skills that will develop and my child over the next year!



First, let's make sure that your child has the skills we expect them to have mastered at this age. Ok so by their 4th birthday, we expect your child is able to:

  • drive you crazy with "why" questions (right?!)
  • name common colors 
  • use their imagination during play
  • follow basic, 3 step directions
  • understand same and different
  • retell basic details from a familiar story
  • have a vocabulary of 300-500 words
  • speak in complete sentences that have 5+ words
  • tell his name and age
  • show a wide range of emotions
  • speak clearly enough that others including strangers understand about 75% of what they say



Ok, so what's next?


In the area of speech sound development, your child will develop the skills to:
  • speak clearly enough to be understood 100% of the time (even if there are still some errors on the sounds: l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th and some blends). One of my favorite examples is my daughter used to say she was born in "Optober" because the "ct" blend was difficult. But no one had difficulty understanding what she was talking about.
  • clarify what he's saying when someone doesn't understand and says "what did you say?"
  • say sentences smoothly without words getting stuck or repetitions of sounds and words most of the time.



In the area of expressive language development, your 4 year old will develop the skills to:
  • be able to carry on a conversation. You'll notice more and more of the asking, answering and commenting that happens in a conversation with adults. You child will initiate some conversations, join conversations that you are having and will extend conversations appropriately. 
  • speak in complex sentences. Your child's sentences will include multiple actions words ("he ran and jumped on the playground!") and other details that give you more information. Some grammar errors will be present, though!
  • count up to 10 objects. Counting is a very cool and fun activity that your child want to practice. Give lots of opportunities to count! You can have your child give you 10 blocks or 5 oranges or 7 cars.
  • name colors and shapes. There are so many books about colors and shapes that are great, but look for real life opportunities to talk about colors and shapes, too!
  • recognize his name and may be able to write it. There are some great ways to work on your child's ability to recognize his written name. One of my favorites is to do a modification of a mystery bag. Get a brown lunch bag and write names on them. Put treats or treasures in the bags. Have your child find his bag by finding the one with his name on it!




In the area of receptive language (comprehension), your 4 year old will develop the skills to:
  • attend for longer periods of time. This is a great time to start reading longer books (this is the beginning of the age range for which Dr. Seuss books are written!) or read a few books at bed time and talk about the books together!
  • follow complex 3 part directions. These directions require your child to hold the information in memory while they complete parts of the direction. An example could be "put the toy away, get your play clothes on and sit at the table for a snack." He will also be able to follow classroom style directions like "cut out the circle and glue it on paper."
  • understand gestures like a hand up to mean "stop" or a thumbs up to mean "good job!"
  • understand time concepts like morning, afternoon and evening and the activities that are associated with each. Also, understand concepts like first, last and next and yesterday, today and tomorrow.



In the area of Social Skills, your 4 year old will develop the skills to: 
  • become more and more independent (sigh! It's so good, but sometimes its still nice to be needed!) by brushing teeth, getting dressed and doing other personal tasks
  • want to please his friends 
  • undersand and obey rules
  • share and take turns
  • express frustration and anger with words instead of acting out physically


This is going to be such an exciting year! Do you have a  4 year old? Want some fun activities to do with your child?! Stay tuned :)


Over the years, I've focused quite a bit on activities I've done with my daughter. So, I'll be adding more activities focusing on more of the activities that I do with Little W to develop his speech and language skills!


Do you have a skill that you would love to see an activity for? Let me know! I'd be happy to share a favorite or create a new one!!


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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