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Your 3-Year-Old: Development and Milestones

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Language Development in 3 Year Olds
three year old speech development

As your three-year-old grows, so will her language skills, making it easier for her to communicate with you and others.

Barry Rosenthal

Ever had your ear talked off? Get ready, because as the parent to a 3-year-old, it's likely you aren't going to get a word in edgewise for a while. Your little one should now have about 300 words in his verbal arsenal and it is likely he understands much more than that. Not only should your child be speaking in simple sentences, her comprehension is booming and getting stronger every day.

To help him keep talking and understanding, the best thing you can do is to engage in your child in conversations all the time. Answer her questions and ask a few of your own. Read, read, read, all the time and always take the conversation to the next level. If you see a dog, talk about what noise it makes, where it lives, what color it is, etc.

Here's what else you can expect in terms of language and verbal development in your 3-year-old:

  • Can understand upwards of 1,000 words by her third birthday. On average, learns four new words a day. By her fourth birthday, she should understand nearly 3,000 - 4,000 new words. (The number of words that a child understands is always greater than the number of words they use in conversation.)
  • Can remember the meaning of a word when you explain it to him, but can also infer the meaning through context cues.
  • Listening skills increase dramatically. Can understand and follow multi-step directions such as, "Go to your room, get your shoes and bring them to me."
  • Enjoys listening to books and may even attempt to "read" it on his own.
  • May have trouble waiting their turn in conversation, particularly in a group setting. Interrupts often.
  • Starts conversations.
  • Can keep the conversation relevant to what is being discussed, although may sometimes go off on a tangent.
  • For the most part, a 3-year-old can be understood by a person who isn't with them every day.
  • Can use pronouns correctly.
  • Has names or nicknames for all the important people in her life.
  • Asks many questions and will respond with an answer when you ask him a question.

For more tips on increasing your child's language development, check out our Word Play series.

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