Genesee Valley CSD

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  • Communication Development: A Parent's Guide

    • Communication Milestones Between 3 and 4 Years of Age

      At this age, children are becoming increasingly good at using language to communicate. Typically, a child at this age will

      • Follow directions that require paying attention to more than one piece of information
      • Use language to express emotion (e.g., "I don't want to" or "He's happy").
      • Use sentences of 5 or more words
      • Have a lot to say, but may have choppy speech, or repeats words
      • Can tell you about an experience in the past
      • Has conversations with different people about different things
      • Asks questions frequently
      • Understand that different behaviors are expected at different social situations (for example, being quiet at a library)
      • Role play and create stories, especially when playing

      Communication Milestones Between 4 and 5 Years of Age

      young boy smiling

      By four-years-old, children can have conversations with adults, understand feelings and emotions, make few pronunciation errors, and enjoy creative play and using their imaginations. Many four year olds attend a preschool during this time and enjoy learning their letters and numbers in preparation for kindergarten. Some children will even begin reading before age 5. Much of a child's development, especially concerning language and literacy skills, depends on their unique environment and experiences. The following guidelines will give you an idea of what an average child might achieve during the developmental year between ages 4 and 5:

      • Using complex sentences containing four to eight words
      • Using words like "but", "if", "so", and "because"
      • Answering "why" and "how" questions that require reasoning
      • Understanding 10,000 words or more
      • Saying 900-2,000 different words
      • Asking for the meanings of words
      • Listening to and understanding simple stories; answering questions about stories and books
      • Starting conversations and keeping on topic
      • Shares personal experiences
      • Pronunciation is good enough to be understood by most adults, but still makes age-appropriate sound errors
      • Beginning to draw letters
      • Playing pretend and creates scenarios using toys
      • Starting to problem-solve, plan ahead, and think about "what would happen if..."
      • Developing friendships with other children
      • Responds to the emotional state of other children

      Communication Milestones Between Kindergarten and 1st Grade

      young girl painting

      Starting school is a very exciting time for your child and the whole family! You might be wondering, "Is my child ready?" The following information can be used as a general guide for speech, language, social, and literacy skills that are important for your child to have before starting kindergarten and first grade.

      Before entering kindergarten, children are expected to have the following skills:

      • Following directions that contain more than one piece of information
      • Listening to others while they are talking
      • Asking adults for help
      • Using words to share their thoughts, and to talk about their needs, wants, and feelings
      • Using a variety of sentences and speaking clearly enough so others can understand
      • Beginning to recognize familiar words and symbols, such as "STOP" on stop signs
      • Engaging with books. Children may pretend to read books to themselves or to their toys dolls by making up words or using actual phrases from the books. They should also be able to make reasonable predictions about what will happen in a story.


      Before entering the first grade, children are expected to have the following skills:

      • Listen to and understand an age-appropriate story that is read aloud
      • Follow and participate in conversations
      • Retell a familiar story or talk about an event
      • Recognize and provide rhyming words (e.g., "cat" and "hat")
      • Describe people, places, actions, and things (e.g., color, shape, size, what they do)
      • Understand that letters represent sounds and be able to match some letters with sounds
      • Recognize some written words
      • Print own name
      • Understands concepts like opposites, similarities, and categories.
      • Shows some understanding of numbers and quantities

      Red Flags

      Seek the advice of your pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist if you observe the following with your child:

      • His/her speech is very difficult to understand
      • He/she has trouble retelling a simple sequence of events and the feelings they have about experiences
      • He/she does not socialize with classmates or peers
      • He/she seems to have a dramatically harder time focusing on a task than his same-age peers
      • He/she has a lot of trouble following directions
      • He/she has a hard time following a story or understanding why the characters in the story are doing things