He is the busiest kid in the world – or so it seems.  His movements are constant, and even in a quiet moment you sense his little brain working over-time.  In his own way, he shows you a hunger for learning.  The current of questions and make believe is as strong as ever, and yet is different. He is shifting, moving, becoming a little boy in every way  – no longer as small or as easy to hold on your hip let alone the shoulders where he loves to be.  These days, you are on the lookout for a school to send him to next year (or the year after) – thinking of his development and searching for the right fit for him and the rest of the family.

With his entire developmental journey about to be under the scrutiny of education authorities, you, along with all parents of a 4-year-old, start to feel the sweat accumulate under the collar. We have a separate blog coming your way to let you in on the developmental milestones that schools are looking for when it comes to Prep interview time.

Until then, let’s look at the communication milestones a regular child would meet during his fourth year:

His ability to understand 1500-2000 words is a testament to his ever-absorbing brain. Receptive language skills help him to understand simple “Who?” “What?”and “Where?” questions as well as some ‘time’ words, like lunch time, today and tonight (although, you might find that “the other day” could mean anytime from yesterday to the beginning of time itself!).  He can hear you call from another room and is able to respond accordingly.

Of course, expressive language is booming. His speech is usually fluent and clear – most times, other people can understand what he says.  He now uses approximately 900 words in longer sentences of about 4-5 words and, for the most part, uses generally correct grammar with the exception of one or two mistakes, e.g. “I wented there.”  Most sounds are spoken with accuracy, although you might find that some trickier sounds like l, r, s, z, v, th, ch and sh need a little more attention.  If your child is consistently missing the mark on certain sounds after 6 months into his fourth year, check in with your Speech Pathologist about strategies for fostering correct sounds and avoiding the repetition of incorrect sounds. He contributes to conversation by telling you short, basic stories about experiences or story plots that he remembers, and regularly talks about things that happen away from home.  He proudly declares both first and last names, is able to give directions, like “give it to her,” and the flow of “Who?” “What?” and “Why?” questions is steadier than ever!

Typically, a 4-year-old enjoys a moment of solitude almost as much as a game with friends, and naturally uses language when playing with other children or toys.  He takes part in short group time activities and has a sound grasp on the principles of turn-taking.  Oh, and the sweetness of the concern he shows for play mates and sibling (especially if they are in distress) is enough to melt any heart.  He is bold, in his own way, in approaching groups of children and playing new games.

Pretty spectacular, right? A growing child is most definitely a wonder to behold!

If you have been tracking this series on communication development, you may recognise some of the following tips from previous posts.  These repeated tips are actually meant to be building blocks that you can start from almost any age (the sooner, the better!). Reading, singing, speaking with your child at his height are all keys creating a great foundation for school and life after school.  They are opportunities to see and know your child in ways you might not have before – being there to watch how he reacts, when he concentrates hardest, what truly brings him joy and illuminates his imagination.

  1. Allow your child to have lots of different experiences to talk about.  This doesn’t need to cost a cent!  Become an opportunist when it comes to simple experiences – walking the dog, learning to ride a bike, watching the sunset, finding a stream, rock pools.  Experiences are the gateways to truly learning.  Add language prompts and simple conversation for next level learning adventures by asking appropriate questions!
  2. Let him talk about it.  Give plenty of opportunity for your child to take the reins in retelling the experiences you share.  You may find that his interpretation of events is very different to your own!
  3. Take those quiet moments of reading to your child and make them even better by giving him the chance to ‘read’ to you.
  4. Play games with your child.  This is the time to start introducing games with simple rules as well as following him into his imagination.
  5. Let him see your face when you are conversing.
  6. Check your speech! Model sounds, words and grammatical structures clearly in your own speech.  Use emphasis when you want to give your child a new or a correct word or structure. Don’t distort sounds or intonation patterns as you emphasise them.

The Speechie Spot, Bald Hills, takes appointments for all concerns regarding child communication development.  Chat with Speech Pathologist, Kerry Townley-O’Neill, for further tools, tips, therapy and family programs to teach your child to really own their communication skills!