Speech and Language Traits of the 4-Year-Old

Your child’s speech and language development depends on his or her ability to hear. A hearing loss can interrupt or delay the ability to communicate. All children, even newborns and young babies, can have their hearing tested. If you suspect a hearing problem, ask your doctor to refer your child to an audiologist. Seek prompt medical treatment if you suspect your child may have an ear infection.

At 4, your child will…

  • Point to colors red, blue, yellow and green
  • Identify crosses, triangles, circles and squares
  • Follow commands even though objects are not present
  • Speak of imaginary conditions such as “suppose that” or “I hope”
  • Ask many questions, although he is more interested in how the answers fit into his own thoughts rather than simply an explanation
  • Have an average sentence length of 4 to 5 words
  • Ask “who?” and “why?”
  • Begin to use complex sentences
  • Use contractions such as “it’s a”
  • Use past tenses correctly
  • Have a vocabulary of nearly 1,500 words
  • Uses most speech sounds correctly

You can stimulate your 4-year-old child’s speech and language by...

  • Helping the child classify or group objects, explaining how things are alike or different
  • Teaching the child to correctly use the telephone
  • Letting the child help you plan activities such as what you will prepare for dinner
  • Giving the child more responsibility
  • Talking with the child as you would any other person
  • Reading longer stories to him or her
  • Letting him tell and make up stories for you
  • Continuing to show your pleasure and approval at his or her development in speech, language and thought
  • Not expecting absolute perfection in the child’s pronunciation of words

Provided for you by the Speech & Hearing Board of the Baptist Health Care Foundation and United Way Agency.