If you are only just tuning into our Communication Development series, welcome! Today we post our fifth and final instalment after following the normal development of Receptive Language, Expressive Language and Social Skills in a child from birth through to 5 years. Let’s jump straight into today’s post and get talking about your little Fiver.

There’s a really unique realisation that occurs when a child turns five. Suddenly, she looks taller, her face looks different compared to just months ago, and she is starting to get a hold on cultural etiquette.  Depending on her birthday month, she may be heading into a year of Pre-Prep programs to get her school-ready OR she’s already headed to school in a uniform that is a slightly awkward fit (not necessarily because of the actual make of the clothing, but because it is your baby wearing it!) and just the thought of it all makes you sweat from your eyeballs.  With the transition comes the scrutiny as schools begin to look at the way your child has developed in all areas up until now.  The pressure is on to get her passing interviews and becoming an official student of the school you have, after much deliberation, chosen for her.  You believe in her and you want her teachers and co-students to see her with the same inspired view, but more than anything you want her to move forward with confidence in who she is and what she has to offer.   When you break the school prerequisites down to the very basic of basics, you find the one integral skill that she can’t go without – the ability to communicate what she means. Before we look at some simple ways to teach and reinforce language, let’s look at the language development that is expected from the average 5-year-old.

Her love for stories has grown to new heights – she understands them better these days, and is able to answer simple comprehension questions about stories she knows inside out as well as the new ones.  With 2500-2800 words firmly grasped, she understands nearly everything that is said to her at home, prep and/or day-care, and you no longer doubt her ability to hear properly all the time.  All of these demonstrate a healthy receptive language capability.

Expressive language say that her speech is clear and fluent, using a voice that is ‘easy to listen to’ – this means that she is understood by anyone she speaks to.  She now speaks in 5-8-word sentences with correct grammar and detail, and will use between 1500-2000 words with correct meaning and context!  Her sound pronunciation is almost perfectly precise with only a little difficulty with ‘r’, ‘v’ or ‘th’ sounds, if any difficulty at all. The stories she tells are sometimes long and involved which is not only entertaining for herself and those around her, but also a great flag to show her ability to use language to converse.  Each day she practices and finds language as a way to express herself, explain why some simple things happen (“We can’t go because we’re too tired”), the function of basic, everyday things (like what a hairdryer does), the meaning of some words, and she can even explain how to solve a simple problem.  Her ability to follow three-step instructions is nothing short of a beautiful thing and you find yourself reduced to a puddle every time she starts to talk about her feelings or lets you in on her own ideas.  You also notice her increased interest in reading, and writing letters and numbers.

Your child is really grasping the basics of social skills by now.  Conversation seems to last much longer and are much more enjoyable as topics are maintained for several turns.  Her general behaviour is becoming controlled, sensible and independent.  She is beginning to understand the ways of polite culture – that requests are considered politer when indirect and the need for rules.


    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. Books. 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 (i.e. snap, concentration, Guess Who, Snakes and Ladders, UNO) as well as following her 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!