Communication: A Kid’s Key to the World (Early Language)

Early Language: What to Expect at 3 Years

“Without a song or a dance, what are we?”

ABBA may help us be thankful for the music, but do we ever stop to think about the gift of communication more broadly? Expressing ourselves and understanding others is crucial to developing our sense of identity, building relationships and navigating learning, work and play. It is our key to the world!

Receptive Language (Understanding)
Children are usually able to:

  • Follow 2-part instructions, eg. “Give me the teddy and throw the ball.”
  • Respond to simple wh-questions, eg. ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘who’
  • Understand concepts like same/different, opposites (hot/cold), size (big/little) and location (in, on, under), colours, body parts
  • Sort items into groups, eg. animals, toys, food

Expressive Language (Using Words)
Children are usually able to:

  • Use action words, eg. ‘go’, ‘run’, ‘fall’
  • Talk about things that happened in the past (eg. “He goed there”)
  • Use 2-5 words together to talk about things, request something and ask questions
  • A stranger should understand about 75% of what your child says

How to Help

    • Expand on what your child says – if s/he says “More water”, you can say “Tom wants more water. Here is some cold water.”
    • Repeat, repeat, repeat – use new words over and over, read the same books and sing the same nursery rhymes.
    • Love your local library and read with your child every day!
    • Show your child that what s/he says is important to you. Ask her to repeat things that you did not understand, eg. “I know you want an animal. Tell me which animal you want.”
    • Be patient – your child is learning so many new words and discovering how to put them together correctly so they won’t always come out smoothly!

When to Seek Help

Seek help early, don’t wait and see! Well-meaning family and friends may tell you not to worry but remember, you are the expert on your child. If you have any concerns at all about your child’s speech and language development, talk to a speech pathologist!

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