51 things your child should understand and say before she turns four

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You child starts talking much more clearly between the ages 2 and 4. Here are the language milestones she should achieve by that time.

The age between 2 and 4 is when the children are at their chatty best! They start understanding language more and more and so they start communicating using it rather than using gestures or whining for things they need. And as you can see, your child covers a lot of ground as far as the language milestones are concerned. 

Your child is going to bombard you with questions, both logical and outrageous.And if see it as an opportunity to better her milestones, this is the best age to try and answer all her questions with a breadth of your vocabulary.

In the previous article, we read about the 30 things your child must understand before she turns 2. Continuing from there, here are the most important 50 things your child should ideally understand or say by the time she turns 4. So, here is the list of language milestones.

Language milestones between the ages of 2 and 3

  1. She can name and identify several body parts
  2. She knows the names and can match 4 to 5 basic colours
  3. Understands most things said to her
  4. Knows the words and understands simple opposites like “big” and “small”
  5. She can give her full attention to an activity at hand for 5-7 minutes
  6. Understands the concept of ‘one’ and ‘all’
  7. Understands the concept of “single”. If she is playing with 6 toys, and you ask her for one, she should be able to hand you just one toy.
  8. She understands the concept of time, especially 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' 
  9. She enjoys listening to short stories, songs and rhymes
  10. She loves to hear the same story over and over!
  11. Can follow simple instructions like “comb the doll’s hair”
  12. She understands pronouns and can put a toy 'in', 'on' or 'under' a box when asked
  13. Can identify, match, and name common pictures and things. 
  14. Points to pictures in a book when named
  15. If she needs something, she requests items by name
  16. Talks to the toys! I find it incredibly cute.
  17. Points and asks questions like 'what's that'
  18. She can tell you when she wants to go to the toilet, or if she has already soiled her diaper
  19. Can say her name,(unless it is too complex)
  20. She can hold up her fingers to tell her age
  21. Tries talking but might exhibit grammatical errors
  22. Uses sentences with 2-3 words like 'I want it', 'I am sleepy'
  23. Can use nouns and verbs together e.g. “daddy-sit”
  24. Can use two-word negative phrases e.g. “don’t want”
  25. Uses phrases with 'is' like “Daddy is eating, Mummy is sleeping”
  26. Uses some regular past tense verbs (ate) and possessive pronouns (him, her)
  27. Uses some prepositions, present progressive verbs (e.g. walking), and irregular past tense forms (e.g. threw)
  28. Talks to other children as well as adults
  29. Tries to solve problems by talking instead of hitting or crying
  30. Answers simple questions about object function. E.g. “Which one do you use to eat?”
  31. She can repeat 1 through 5 aloud after you. 

Red flags for language milestones

  • Does talking frustrate your child?

  • Does she throw a tantrum instead of communicating with words all the time?
  • Do you have difficulty understanding your child when she talks?

  • Does your child communicates using only one word at a time?

  • Do you think she has trouble using more words together? 

Language milestones between the ages of 3 and 4

  1. Understands time even better. For instance 'tomorrow', 'lunch time', 'morning'
  2. Understands opposite verbs like 'fast' and 'slow'
  3. Understands the uses of day to day objects.
  4. She can recite where she lives.
  5. She can sing a few Nursery rhymes like 'Twinkle Twinkle little star', but might mix a few words
  6. Follows complex commands like 'go to your room and close the door after you' 
  7. Can tell two events in the order that they happened
  8. Can recollect 2 or 3 things that happened in the story you just read to her
  9. Has a sentence length of 4 – 5 words
  10. Uses language to express emotion instead of throwing tantrums all the time. 
  11. Uses nouns and verbs most frequently
  12. Uses some contractions (e.g. doesn’t, couldn’t), irregular plurals (e.g. men), future tense verbs, and conjunctions (e.g. because, and)
  13. Consistently uses regular plurals (books), possessives (mum's phone) and simple past tense verbs (ate, slept)
  14. Sentence grammar improves, although some errors still persist
  15. Appropriately uses of 'is, 'are', and 'am' in sentences
  16. Can name at least two colours
  17. Can name simple shapes
  18. Asks many questions related to the activity at hand e.g. “What is this?” “Where we go?” “Why?”
  19. Able to respond to 'Who?' and 'Whose?' questions
  20. Might irritate you by repeating the question rather than answering it. 

Red flags for language milestones

  • Do you find it hard to understand your child’s speech?
  • Is there a hesitation or stammering apparent in the way she speaks?

My child does not meet a few language milestones

It is perfectly okay for a child to take her time when it comes to the language. However, as stated before, keep a lookout for the red flags. This is a crucial age for the development of language as the primary mode of communication. If your child has trouble understanding it or expressing what she wants clearly, she might need some therapy. 

To understand if the problem is in understanding the language or if it is a speech impairment, your doctor may refer her to a speech expert. Speech therapy has been shown to work wonders in children. But, don't be disheartened if your child is diagnosed with it. Remember, even Einstein was a late talker and did not talk properly till he was 4! 

(Source: Language milestones list compiled by Speech Therapist, Isabel Tan)

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