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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Normal Speech and Language Growth: Ages 2 to 3 years

Published February 5, 2013 1:38 PM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
Thank you for joining me for week 5 of my Normal Speech and Language Development Series! This week I am narrowing my look at children ages two to three years of age, as well as exploring the vast range of "normal" that exists when looking at childhood development. Last week's post cited information from both WebMD and ASHA regarding the typical speech and language skills of children in this age group. This week we will explore additional resources regarding this information.

The Babycenter website offers a concise list of what typically developing speech and language skills look like by age 3: 

Use an active vocabulary of 300 or more words

Count to 3

Use some plurals

Use some past tense

Name major body parts

Use three-word sentences

Give name and age when asked

Respond to "wh" questions (who, what, when, where, why)

Be understood by non-family members

Talk constantly, narrate own play activity

Anyone who knows a typically developing 3 year-old would agree that some of these figures may actually be a bit conservative. For example, by age 3, some children may have an active vocabulary far above 300 words and may also be able to speak in 5+ word sentences consistently and effectively.  However, the list presented above does offer a solid baseline of three year old speech and language development.  

On the Child Development Institute website, there is a "Language Development in Children" chart which outlines milestones from ages 6 months to 4 years. The website also reminds readers that "There is a wide range of normal development". You can see the differences when you compare the following list for typically developing 3 year olds to the list above from Babycenter for the same age group:

Use pronouns I, you, me correctly

Is using some plurals and past tenses

Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under

Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name

Handles three word sentences easily

Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words

About 90% of what child says should be intelligible

Verbs begin to predominate

Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities

Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason

Able to reason out such questions as "what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?"

Should be able to give his sex, name, age

Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected

 

*So if you are confused about which number to use to compare your child's language development...

300 words or 900 words? Keep this piece of advice in mind:

 

The range of "normal" is broad and exists somewhere within the average of both.

As long as your child is continuing to expand their language on a weekly/monthly basis,

then normal development is most likely taking place.

However if you have concerns, share them with your pediatrician.

2 comments

Hi Stephanie! I love your work! I think it's important to remind readers that skills are generally listed as a milestone at the age when 90% of all children have achieved the skill. We often look at a list of milestones and mistakenly assume the skills are reported at  an "average" age of acquisition when in reality, the time frame is usually when nearly every child has mastered the skill. This isn't explained clearly enough to parents who may otherwise dismiss a red flag under the guise of "all kids develop differently." Researchers consider the variability and range of normal development by looking at the broad 90%. That's also why thinking "Boys talk later than girls" can be dangerous for parents of a little guy who's really struggling developmentally. Chances are if a child is missing more than a couple of milestones, parents should follow up with a referral or at least begin a conversation with the child's pediatrician so that delays are noted and treated at a time when little brains are so responsive to intervention.    

Laura, SLP February 19, 2013 9:01 PM
Louisville KY

This is week 6 of my 8 week series highlighting what typical speech and language development looks like

February 12, 2013 10:35 AM

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About this Blog


    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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