Four year olds

What communication skill should my four year old have?

Four year olds are confident communicators. They are able to speak clearly and fluently in long and complex sentences.

Four year olds should be able to:

  • understand and use a wide variety of words.
  • construct complex sentences using joining words (conjunctions) such as: and, then, so, but, because.
  • use most grammar correctly including pronouns: he, she, his, hers, him, her, I and verb tenses: jumps, jumped, will jump, is jumping. Your four year old may still have difficulty with some irregular plurals such as “mice” and irregular verbs such as “fell” but they should use mostly adult grammar.
  • be able to hold a conversation, listening and responding to what the other person says for a number of turns.
  • be able to use language to join in groups and play cooperatively with other children.
  • be able to describe something they have done in another time or place.
  • be able to retell a familiar story from a book.
  • be able to tell how to do something familiar with a number of steps such making a sandwich or brushing your teeth.
  • follow instructions with a number of steps.
  • ask and answer who, why and how questions.
  • pronounce most words correctly, though they may still have difficulty with later sounds such as “r” and “th” and long words such as “hospital” and “spaghetti”.

Children who have developmental delay, a family history of speech, language or learning problems, a history of middle ear problems and children from multiple births are at particular risk of developing communication problems.

If you are concerned that your child cannot do some of these things an assessment with a qualified speech pathologist can help by:

  • Telling you where your child’s development is compared with other children of the same age
  • Suggesting some strategies and activities to help your child develop any skills they may need to learn.
  • Letting you know if your child would benefit from some speech therapy
  • Advising you if there is anything else that should be checked such as hearing or general development.

Support in the preschool years can be helpful in preventing further difficulties later on which can impact on your child’s learning and literacy at school, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you think your child needs it. For more information on assessments browse our website.

How do I develop my four year old's language skills?

If you are concerned that your child does not speak as well as they should or just want to help them get ready for success at school here are some ideas to help your child develop strong communication skills:

To develop your four year old’s understanding try to talk at a level just above the level your child uses themselves. If your child uses sentences of five words, make yours just a little longer. Introduce new words and concepts as you talk with your child. Repeat the new word or idea a number of times to help your child learn and remember. Use the new word in different settings so that your child develops a deeper understanding of the word.

To develop your four year old’s use of language repeat back their sentences to them now and then fixing up any mistakes. “I’ve got cold foots” “Cold feet, oh no let get some warm socks”. This will help them gradually learn adult grammar and pronunciation. Gently emphasise your change but make sure you also sound interested and positive. Also add extra words and ideas to what your child says; “I found a sock” “You found a long, stripped sock, lets find another one to match, let’s find another long, stripped sock”. Most importantly listen to what your child has to say and make talking together a positive time for both of you.

Ideas for developing language skills

Play word games such as: “I went to the shop and I bought …….” Each person must repeat what has previously been bought before adding their own to the list. If your child finds it difficult to remember what is said cut pictures from junk mail to make cards and turn over the cards in turn and name them as you play. Try variations such as I went to the zoo, jungle, park, beach etc.

Go for a walk and talk about the things you see. Collect things to bring home and keep such as: feathers, stones, leaves. Look at them closely maybe with a magnifying glass and talk about the colour, shape, texture, size and weight of each thing.

Play hide and seek with toy animals or dolls. Once they are found talk about who was found where i.e.: “The horse was under the big, blue chair”. Use lots of describing and position words.

Make some sequence cards. Use a digital camera to take a series of photos of your child doing familiar activities such as brushing their teeth or making toast. Print them out, cut them up and see if your child can put them in order and tell you what they are doing. Once familiar activities are easy for your child use more complex activities and take more pictures, such as craft and cooking activities.

Make your own books. Take your camera along on an outing and take a series of photos through the day. When you come home print them out and slip into a mini photo album. With your child write a sentence or two for each picture. Use a story beginning structure of “when, who and where” e.g. One day Max went to the beach” and an ending structure with a feeling word or two “at night-time Max went home feeling happy and tired”. Write your story in past tense and use some feeling words, describing words and direct speech “Max said “Wow”. These will help your child understand how stories are structured, an important pre-literacy skill.

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