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Average Verbal Skills of 3-Year-Olds

Updated on May 24, 2013

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Is my child’s language level normal?

As my youngest child approaches 4, I began to wonder about what the development speech skills for his age are. His older brother was always very articulate and we could understand him even at an early age. I frequently have to ask my youngest to repeat himself or clarify what he said by repeating the word that I think he said.

First Words

How old was your child when they first started to speech?

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Talkative Toddler, What should my child be able to say?

At this age span children start talking more and becoming involved in conversations. You should expect your child to be able to do the following;

  • Say their name and age
  • Say approximately 250 to 500 words
  • Answer simple one step questions
  • Speak in short sentences (5 to 7 words)
  • Speak clearly
  • Tell stories

What if my child's speech is not clear?

Now my toddler is not as clear as I would expect for a child of his age. But there are some common mispronunciations that are still developmentally appropriate. These will tend to stop as a child grows older and hopefully they will outgrow them before starting kindergarten.

  • Substitute “f” or “d” for the “th” sounds, especially at the end of a word. Bath comes out as baf
  • Substitute the “L” with a “w” sounds - my sister is Laura and we frequently get “wara”
  • Consonant Blends may become a single constant sound.
  • Leaving off parts of longer words


Ask & Repeat, How to help my child's speech

One of the way that I get my now 4 year old talking and listening to the correct pronunciation of words is the ask and repeat method. This is a basic listening technique so it doesn't clue him into what I am doing most of the time. I ask him a question and when he answers I repeat his answer using proper pronunciation and the same words.

It goes like this

me: Logan, what did you have for lunch today?

L: Gilled chicken and cackers

me: oh really? you had grilled chicken and crackers?

This simple conversation keeps him talking and listening.

The Strong Willed Child Verbal Game

i know that if I start to correct my toddler he will clam up and pretend he can't talk. It is important that you don't make the child self conscience about their speaking. This may have a negative effect on their verbal skill progress if they refuse to speak. There are some children that could take thsi to the extreme. For instance a child that refuses to speak in school for several years after being corrected at an early age. Other children will be totally oblivious or not even hear the difference in their word and the corrected word.

Reading Books

Reading books to children this age will also help increase their vocabulary and in turn increase their verbal skills. These books can also pull conversations about the pictures and character while you are reading them. I often ask my kids what they think will happen next, even if we have read the book 50 times already. It gets them thinking and talking.

Words in Action

Keep an ongoing dialogue going throughout the day of what you are doing, what you child is doing, the schedule of what will happen that day. This not only helps keep the child feel as though they are included it keeps them engaged in dialogue and conversation.

When is it time to take it further

If you child is struggle with a majority of the above skills and is not making progress please start the conversation with your local pediatrician. They in turn can get you set up with an evaluation and services that can help your child. The earlier the intervention they can get the more progress they can make. There are plenty of kids I had a kindergarteners that would have been graduated out of speech before they got to me if they had received early intervention. Many early speech interventions graduate kids before their reach kindergarten or even in the early years of elementary school. Many of these services are free and provided through local organization and your local school district. Depending on your area you may even be eligible for the therapist to visit your local daycare or home.


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    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      My daughter spoke sooner than my son, who is her older brother. She in fact, talks all the time. It is a lot easier to carry on verbal conversations with her because she is more verbal naturally. Though my son, he is more introspective. Interestingly, she has an easier time at school with reading, writing, etc., and he struggles more with anything that has to do with language. Great hub.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      I'm always drawn to this type of article. Thank you for spelling it out for us. My almost 3 year old is right on track, but compared to his older sister he is really behind. I do think it's cute when he can't say "l"s or "th"s though :)

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 4 years ago from IL

      LOL thanks for the giggle

    • Sadie Anne S12345 profile image

      Sadie Anne S12345 4 years ago from Burlington Iowa

      shiney teeth you got there :D (just saying) :D

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      This hub is really interesting. At the dentist's office today, there was a little girl talking to her mother and she was only 2 1/2 but she was a better conversationalist than most adults I know! :)