Communication Milestones

4-5 Year Communication Milestones

Posted on
November 10, 2022
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By 4 years old, many parents will get a bit more concerned about speech sound production. During this 4 to 5 years, sound errors are more noticeable by family members and teachers. As language skills continue to become more mature, sentences become longer and more complex. So there is more room for error in sounds.  

Sometimes, sound production contains errors that dominate words in sentences, which will cause the familiar and unfamiliar listener to second guess what the child is saying. This turns into a battle of asking the child to repeat what was said and in response frustration expressed by the child in the form of shutting down and not wanting to speak. Or in some cases as a form of opposition - making errors intentionally.

At this stage of speech and language development, sequential (order) concepts and temporal (time) concepts become a part of the child’s tangible understanding. This allows the child to understand words relating to time and sequence. In both the academic setting and at home, 3+ step directives are administered to the child. The child is typically able to follow these directives. Of course, children won’t always want to do what they are told. It is important to be mindful of the distinction between not wanting to follow directives and a barrier preventing them from processing the complexity or steps of the directives. This can be better explained by whether or not a certain directive consistently triggers the child i.e. opening their backpack, taking out their notebook and writing in it.

Incorporating strategies into day-to-day life
Bringing strategies into every day life

As language development continues to grow rapidly through different exposures both inside and outside of the home, a word bank of about 1,500 words is anticipated. These words are now being used in more complex sentences that incorporate more verbs/action words.

As more peer interactions occur in school and at home, social skills start to become increasingly relevant. Flags for limited social abilities begin to be noted during play, conversation, and when engaging in academics.

Communication milestones to be expected:

Receptive  Language Expressive Language Speech Social 
  • Understands sequential words (, after, before)
  • Understands words indicating time references (yesterday, tomorrow etc.)
  • Identifies basic shapes
  • Uses more than 1 action word in sentences (subject + verb)
  • Names letters and numbers
  • Can tell a short oral narrative (ie. about what happened in school)
  • Asks questions
  • v, z, sh, ch, j, y  Sounds present in 50% of 3- 4½ year olds and 90% of 6 year olds.
  • May make mistakes on sounds to say, like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and th
  • Monitors vocal volume (ie.indoor vs outdoor voice)
  • Adjusts communication with younger children vs older children
  • Engages in a back and forth during conversation
  • Take on different roles within imaginative play   Starting forming friendships

  1. ASHA How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? Speech, Language, and Hearing Developmental Milestones From Birth to 5 Years
  2. Speech and Language Milestone Chart | LD OnLine
  3. NHS Social Communication Developmental Milestones
  4. Speech Sound Development Chart
Sharon Baum
Clinical Director, United States and M.A. CCC-SLP
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