Communication Milestones, Resources and Red Flags – 3-Years-Old

Communication Milestones, Resources and Red Flags – 3-Years-Old

Below is a list of communication milestones, resources and red flags to look for as you determine the best course of action for your child. Most children will acquire new skills following a predictable progression of speech and language development. It’s important to remember that if your child has not mastered a certain skill by the suggested age, or is slightly delayed in a few of the milestone areas, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a speech or language disorder.

Please contact your family doctor for an evaluation, or a speech-language pathologist for a screening, if you are concerned about your child’s communication skills. You can also check with local community associations, universities, health departments and preschools to see if they offer free hearing, speech and language development screenings in your community.


Communication Milestones, Resources and Red Flags – 3-Years-Old

Articulation (Sounds)

  • By 3 years of age, a typically developing child should be able to consistently make all vowel sounds and the following consonants: /b/, /p/, /d/, /m/, /n/, /h/, /w/
  • General rule: by 3 years of age, a child should be understood by unfamiliar listeners about 75% of the time.
  • May still substitute /t/ for /k/ or /d/ for /g/ (e.g., “damma” for “gramma” or have other errors on later developing sounds)
  • May leave out a sound or make words shorter (e.g., “tar” for “star” or bella for umbrella)

Expressive Language

A 3-year-old child should have a vocabulary of roughly 1000 words and correctly use the following grammatical markers:

  • Produces sentences with an average length of 3 words
  • Uses some pronouns (“I”, “it”, “me” “my”, “mine”, “you”, “your”, “she”, “he”, and “we”)
  • Uses “-ing” at the end of verbs (such as “playing”, “running”, and “jumping”)
  • Starting to use plural “-s” (e.g., toys)
  • Uses possessive “-s” (Ex: Mommy’s dress)
  • Uses past tense verbs “-ed” (e.g., jumped and kicked)
  • Uses some helping verbs (e.g., “can”, “do”, “be”, “will”)
  • Asks simple Wh questions such as, “Where’s Daddy?”, “What’s that?”, and “What’s he doing?”

Receptive Language

  • Understands size differences such as “big” and “little”
  • Understands simple concepts such as “in”, “on”, “off”, “out of”, “under” and “away from”
  • Follows simple 2-step directions such as “get your coat and put it on”
  • Begins to understand time concepts such as “wait”, “soon”, and “later”
  • Answers simple “Wh” questions such as “what is the dog doing?” “where is the cat?” “What’s that?” “What’s _____ doing?”
  • Begins to say adjectives for color and size

Social Language/Pragmatic Skills

  • Follows simple 2-step directions without cues (“get your coat and put it on”)
  • Watches other children and briefly joins in their play
  • Requests permission for items or activities
  • Engages in simple, make-believe activities like playing house
  • Defends own possessions
  • Holds up fingers to tell age
  • Looks for missing toys
  • Begins to control behavior verbally rather than just physically

Red Flags

Speak with your family doctor if your child displays any of the following signs of a possible language delay or disorder for this age range.

  • 2 – 3 years: says /k/, /g/, /f/, /t/, /d/, and /n/ incorrectly in words most of the time
  • Omitting most sounds at the ends of words (e.g., “ca” for “cat”)
  • Produces speech that is unclear to family
  • Doesn’t use sentences of more than three words
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” appropriately


What Can I Do to Help My Child Develop Language and literacy Skills? 

That’s a very common question that we get. Click here to find out what you can do to help your child’s language and literacy development.

Communication Milestones, Resources and Red Flags for 3-Years-Old. Great information on language and communication skills to look for in your child. Also includes helpful resources and tips for speech, articulation, language and more! #articulation #language

Adapted from: LinguiSystems Guide to Communication Milestones
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The information contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician or Speech Language Pathologist.