Your little one is becoming quite a person.  There aren’t many people who can make you laugh like your 3-year-old.  The constant chatter hints to an ever-busy brain running a million miles an hour, finding you up to your ears in the trail of stories, ideas and questions that she leaves in her wake. She has become a whirlwind – she makes you want to tear your hair out some days but you can’t help but tenderise at the way she shares her little heart so readily.

Let’s look at the communication milestones that your 3-year-old is working on this year:

You will notice a considerable increase in the words that she understands.  Last year, at 2 years, she had an intelligent grasp on about 300 words.  These days, her ability to understand around 900 words (WHAT?!?) indicates a healthy receptive language development.  Understanding in most things seems to be flourishing, in fact.  Contrasting concepts like: big vs small, full vs empty, day vs night, one vs many, are discerned with ease, and the fact that she is now able to follow two-stage commands feels like a godsend.  She shows particular interest in certain books and television programs with simple storylines and sometimes applies these storylines, along her own observations, ideas and relationships, to the games she plays.

Expressive language is off the charts – she chatters constantly, which sees you completely and utterly unsurprised by the fact that her vocabulary is now reaching around 200 clear words grouped into 3-4 words a sentence. You notice that she is understandable when she speaks to familiar adults and strangers generally follow what she says.  Although she is yet to become fluent in her speech, she is normally understood 75-100% of the time.  Pronunciation is not always accurate, however her ability to imitate adult speech sounds is ever-broadening. You may find that she substitutes sounds in a word for another sound, i.e. using w for r (wabbit), d for th (dis) and the word “car” may be said as “tar” – this is normal until approximately 3 and a half years old. Her basic use of grammar and pronouns (I, my, mine) in daily language is recognizable but not always correct as she plays with sentence structure; sometimes she copies phrases that she hears to work out the way of these principles.  Her love for telling stories is obvious in her constant asking for her favourite book to be read aloud, her recounting past experiences and the retelling of stories in short, simple sentences.  Oh, and questions – they are asked perpetually.

The way she enjoys make-believe, role play and dress-ups hints to increasing social skills.  She will play with other children and understands sharing, though won’t always do it.

You may recognise some of the helpful tips below from previous posts in this series – hopefully by now they are second nature! If not, its not too late to start!  Try out some of these suggestions to support your child’s communication development and see how she runs with it.

  1. Play face-to-face.  Do lots of playing! Follow your child into her imagination with role play and make-believe games.  Sing songs together and inspire new dimensions to playing pretend by becoming an animated story teller.
  2. Reposition yourself to converse face-to-face.  Model and encourage adult-like sounds by coming down to your child’s height and letting them see the way your face moves as you speak. Generally, giving instructions when your child is looking you in the face also helps her to concentrate and understand much better what you have actually said and not carry out what she thought you said.
  3. Expand on what your child says.  Be sure to model language clearly, but don’t expect exact repetition all the time.  Intonation is important, too – the English language relies on intonation and its melodic contours to convey specific meanings (i.e. the difference between a question and a statement), so don’t forget to regularly give your child the opportunity to hear it and try it out for herself.
  4. Give her the time to get her thoughts and ideas out.  Rushing a child to speak will make it harder for her to pull her thoughts together, creates confusion as you try to understand the jumble she pushes out and can be upsetting when her meaning is lost under the pressure of the moment!  Allow space for her to collect what she is thinking and present her ideas thoughtfully to her standard of acceptability.  Help her to tell stories by asking relevant and open-ended questions that will help her to put her thoughts in order.
  5. Play lots of sorting games and add language.  This reinforces contrasting concepts and allows them to form a fuller understanding.  Practice, practice, practice!
  6. Teach good vocal hygiene practice.  This basically means teaching your child to look after their voice.  Good hygiene includes keeping hydrated, posture, breath, healthy diet, avoiding smoke and dust and keep the Daffy Duck impersonations to a minimum.  Keep an eye out for our coming Vocal Hygiene blog!
  7. Offer variety in food.  Follow her lead on food but encourage her to test an assortment of textures.  Try to keep mealtimes stress-free!

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s communication development, consider connecting with your local Speech Pathologist or talking to your trusted Paediatrician.