This page is all about 4 year old speech and language skills.  Keep in mind that these milestones are based on research about typically-developing children but this information is not meant to diagnose a speech-language delay or disorder.  There is a wide range of “normal” and even if your child is slightly delayed in a few of these areas, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a speech or language delay.  Please contact a speech-language pathologist for a screening if you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills.  All norms are taken from the  Liguisystems Guide to Communication Milestones which sites the specific resources and research articles used to find each milestone.

Speech Sound Development

By this age, your child should be able to consistently make the following sounds correctly:
-/p/, /b/, /m/, /h/, /n/, /w/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /d/, /f/, “y”

Your child’s speech should be understood by a stranger about 75%-90% of the time.

Speech Sound Resource Page

Grammatical Markers

Your child should be correctly using most of the following grammatical markers:

  • Pronouns:
    – I, me, you, he, she, him, her, we, us, they, them

How to teach the pronouns “he” and “she”

  • Possessive Pronouns:
    – My, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, our, ours, their, theirs
  • “-ing” on the end of verbs

How to Teach Present Progressive “-ing”

  • Plural -s (The apples)

How to Teach Plurals

  • Possessive ‘s (Mommy‘s ball)

How to Teach Possessive ‘s

  • Past tense verbs (jumped, ran, etc.)

How to Teach Past Tense Verbs

Past Tense Verb Flashcards

  • Regular third person singular (he jumps, she runs)
  • Articles (the ball, a banana)

How to Teach Articles “the” and “a”

  • The conjunction “and”

How to Teach the Conjunction “And”

Your child should also be producing sentences with an average length of 2.75-4.5 words/morphemes.

How to Increase Sentence Length

Pragmatic Skills

Your child should be interacting with other people in most of the following ways:

  • Follows two-step related directions without cues (such as “stand up and push in your chair)

Teach a Child to Follow Directions

Following Directions Game

  • Takes turns and plays cooperatively

Teaching Social Skills to Preschoolers

  • Relates personal experiences through verbalization
  • Separates from primary caregiver easily
  • Frequently practices conversation skills by talking to self
  • Begins dramatic play, acting out whole scenes
  • Shows frustration if not understood
  • Expresses ideas and feelings

Self-Calming Strategies for Children

Literacy/Book Skills

Your child should be using books in most of the following ways:

  • Begins to pay attention to specific print, such as the first letter of his name
  • Recognizes logos and other environmental print and understand that print carries a message (knows that the golden arches mean “McDonalds”
  • Identifies some letters and makes letter/sound matches (such as knows that “s” says “sssss”)
  • Participates in rhyming games (such as recognizing that duck and buck rhyme although they may not be great at this yet)
  • Talks about characters in a book
  • Likes to “read” stories to herself and others
  • Protests if an adult changes the story
  • Produces some letter-like forms in scribbles that look like letters

Literacy Resource Page

  • Is developing phonological awareness and pre-reading skills:

The Ultimate Guide to Phonological Awareness and Pre-Reading Skills

Concept Development

Your child should have an understanding of most of the following concepts:

  • Follows quantity directions of “empty” and “a lot” (such as “which one is empty” or “which one has a lot of candy?”
  • Follows equality directions of “same” and “both” (such as “which two are the same?” or “give me both apples”)
  • Understands “next to”, “beside”, and “between”
  • Identifies colors (points to the correct color when you name it, like “show me blue”)
  • Matches one-to-one (can match two items that are the same)
  • Points to the object that is different than the others
  • Uses position concepts such as “behind”, “in front”, and “around”

How to Teach Spatial Concepts

Spatial Concepts Game

Vocabulary Resource Page

Vocabulary Development

Your child should have a vocabulary of about 1600 words.  We don’t recommend you try to count all of them, this should just give you a rough estimate!

Vocabulary Resource Page


Your child should be able to use questions in most of the following ways:

  • Answers a variety of questions, including “yes/no”, “what”, “who”, “where”,  “why”, “how”, “when”, and “how many” (as long as there are only a few things)
  • Asks “what”, “where”, “when”, “how”, “whose” and one-word “why” questions
  • Asks “is” questions (like “what is this?” and “is she crying?”)

Question Resource Page

Listening Skills

Your child should be doing most of the following listening skills:

  • Attends to name being called from another room
  • Understands most simple questions pertaining to his/her activities and environment
  • Begins to learn from listening

More Information

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