Speech and Language Traits of the 3-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 age 3, your child will...

  • match primary colors, name one color
  • begin to follow instructions such as "Put the block under the chair."
  • use words to relate observations, concepts, ideas, and relationships
  • frequently practice by talking to himself
  • know his or her last name, gender and several nursery rhymes
  • tell a story or relay an idea to someone
  • have an average sentence length of three to four words
  • have a vocabulary of nearly 1,000 words
  • sing songs
  • ask "what" questions often
  • have his or her speech understood by a stranger

You can stimulate the 3-year-old’s speech and language by...

  • continuing to extend his or her conversation
  • using words he or she has trouble with frequently in your speech
  • teaching your child relationships of words, objects and ideas
  • talking about similarities or differences between things
  • encouraging the child to tell stories using books and pictures
  • letting the child play with other children
  • reading longer stories to the child
  • paying attention to the child when he’s talking, remembering that repeating words and sounds is normal during this period of growth

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