Speech and language development for children aged 2 to 4 years

This is information about what language your child can understand and what they can say between the ages of two to four years. There are also some ideas and activities which will help you to encourage language development in your child.

All this information is very general; please remember that all children develop differently. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please talk to your Health Visitor or Speech and Language Therapist.

Many children's centres across Worcestershire run 'talking walk-ins' which are drop in sessions to discuss any concerns about your child's speech and language development with a professional. Find a drop in near you on the Children's Centres page.

Now that I am two years old

I will begin to understand:

  • two main ideas in a sentence eg. “give the apple to teddy”
  • basic actions
  • simple stories with pictures
  • “who, what, where” questions used in everyday situations

I will begin to:

  • use two word phrases
  • use at least 50 words (objects, actions, people)
  • use my own name
  • ask “what’s this?”, “where’s?”

My speech may still be very unclear at the moment.

Now that I am two years six months

I will begin to understand:

  • simple ideas about time, place and colour
  • most everyday words and actions
  • what objects are used for eg. “what flies in the sky?”

I will begin to:

  • use three to four word phrases
  • use words related to past events eg. “me falled over”
  • use the following sounds: p m b n d t w

My speech may still be unclear and I may still miss off sounds at the ends of words.

Now that I am three years old

I will begin to understand:

  • three main ideas in a sentence eg. “give daddy the little ball”
  • words like “in, on, under, big and little”
  • some “why” questions

I will begin to:

  • use four or more words in a sentence
  • use words like ‘and’ to link words together
  • use words like “I, he, she” (when I am nearly three and a half)
  • use plural words eg. “cats”
  • talk about past and present activities
  • use the following sounds: k g h f s y

My speech is becoming clearer.

Now that I am four years old

I will begin to understand:

  • four main ideas in a sentence eg. “the man is walking up the big hill”
  • “when” questions
  • story sequences

I will begin to:

  • use five to eight words in a sentence
  • ask lots of ‘wh’ questions
  • use language for a variety of reasons
  • retell favourite stories
  • use a lot more vocabulary
  • play make believe games
  • use words like “I will, I’m going to…”

I will now be able to talk clearly.

Ten tips for talking

  1. talk about what you can see
  2. follow your child’s lead and talk about what they are doing
  3. turn off the TV and set aside at least five minutes a day to play together
  4. use short, simple, clear language
  5. when your child talks, repeat back what they have said and add a little more language
  6. encourage your child to play turn-taking games
  7. give your child a choice eg “do you want a biscuit or an apple?”
  8. if your child has a dummy, take it out
  9. avoid using lots of open questions such as “what’s this?”, talk about what is happening
  10. praise your child’s attempts at talking and avoid correcting them