Three-Year-Old Milestones

Parent reading with three year old child
Share this Page:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

One, two, THREE!

As part of our speech and language milestone series, we’d love to highlight a few ways to support your three-year-old’s speech and language development.

1. Intelligibility (i.e. how much speech you can understand)

A 3-year-old should be approximately 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener. This means that you can understand about 75% of what your child says. This can be difficult for parents to assess because parents typically understand most (if not all) of what their child says. Asking a grandparent, friend or teacher may be beneficial when it comes to understanding how intelligible your child is. 

If you notice that your child speaks fast or seems to combine words together, working on your child’s rate of speech can be helpful. If your child does not yet understand fast vs. slow, you can use animals to teach these concepts. For example, talking about how cheetahs and bunnies run fast while turtles and snails move slowly. Modeling a slower rate of speech can be very helpful for children this age. Also, be mindful of interruptions and giving your child plenty of time to respond. 

If your child continues to omit the final consonant of words (e.g. pi/pig, ho/hot, foo/food) or has trouble with the following consonant sounds (m, p, b, t, d, n, h, w, k, g, f), please consult a pediatric speech pathologist as your child may benefit from speech and language therapy. 

2. Answering questions (who, what, where, why)

At this age, we typically expect children to answer more complex questions. These include “who, where, why” as well as “how.” Visual support, such as pictures, can be beneficial when trying to answer more complex questions. You can ask your child questions while you read picture books. If your child struggles to answer the question, you may give him/her two choices. For example, if the question is, “Where do you buy food?”, you may present the following choices, “At the grocery store or at the library?” You can also ask these questions when you recap your day. If you take pictures on your phone, you may want to use these pictures for additional support. As you start to work on answering more complex questions, pay attention to which question types are the most difficult. It can be helpful to work on one type of question at a time.

3. Sentences

Three-year-olds should be communicating using sentences. At this age, a child with typically developing language will use around 1,000 words. If your child is combining two words, try expanding what your child says by adding one or two words. For example, if he says “want cookie” you may model, “I want cookie. I want cookie please.” Children’s grammatical skills should also be developing at this age. For example, if your child is not yet applying the rule for regular plural -s, it may be helpful to model the words in a structured activity. Exaggerating the sound at the end of the word can also help!

4. Receptive language

You can improve your child’s receptive language skills by playing games that involve following directions. Try to incorporate new concepts when possible. For example, you may want to try adding spatial concepts such as “between” or “next to.” You can also continue to improve your child’s receptive language by reading new books about different topics. My daughter loves to read the same books over and over. While the repetition is beneficial, reading new books gives exposure to new words! A strategy that has worked well for us at bedtime is that we read one new book and one old book. Activities that involve sequencing are also great for developing receptive language. 

5. Social Language

Promoting social language skills during the Coronavirus pandemic can be more difficult than usual but it is possible! Scheduling play dates via FaceTime/Skype or having a picnic outside (where you practice social distancing) are great options for any age. Since most 3-year-olds are engaging in associative play, you can find toys that both children have and have them play with the toys at the same time. Perhaps each child brings his/her own wooden blocks, Legos or playdough. Remember, associative play means that children play the same game but they do not work together or connect with one another. A child may be interested in other people playing but they do not coordinate with others. You can encourage your child to interact verbally by commenting and asking questions.   

If you have any specific questions about your child’s speech and language development, please reach out for a free phone consultation with an experienced therapist or complete our therapist match survey via the link below!

Therapyworks Erin Michelle

Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

Related Posts

Strategies for Raising a Child During a Pandemic

Key Strategies for Raising a Child During a Pandemic If you feel like your head is spinning with terms like …

Strategies for Raising a Child During a Pandemic Read More »

Therapist Recommended Toddler Toys

TherapyWorks Therapist Recommended Toddler Toys Have you started your holiday shopping? Hopefully we can help! We asked a few of …

Therapist Recommended Toddler Toys Read More »

Teaching and Understanding Gratitude

How to Teach Gratitude Did you know that November is National Gratitude Month? This is the perfect time to talk …

Teaching and Understanding Gratitude Read More »

The Importance of Tracking Developmental Milestones

Why track developmental milestones? Every child grows and develops at their own pace. As a parent, it can be tough …

The Importance of Tracking Developmental Milestones Read More »

Why Is Early Intervention Important?

As pediatric therapists, we tend to take the importance of early intervention as a given. Many parents, however, many not …

Why Is Early Intervention Important? Read More »

Follow Us

COVID-19 Protocol

We hope you and your family are continuing to stay safe and healthy! We have outlined our protocols for in-person sessions during COVID-19. As you know, the health and safety of our clients and therapists remain our highest priority. As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we work together through these unprecedented times.

Hand Washing:
Upon arrival at your home, your therapist will wash their hands with soap and water and/or use hand sanitizer. We ask that you and your child also wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer upon your therapist’s arrival.
We are asking our therapists to wear masks upon entering your home and throughout your child’s session. That said, we understand that some children have adverse reactions to seeing adults in masks and will leave it up to you and your therapist to decide your comfort level while still taking safety precautions.
We ask that parents and caregivers also follow the guidelines and wear masks when sitting in on sessions. We will not enforce that policy, but we do kindly ask for compliance.
As for your child, we realize that masks may not be appropriate for every child so we will not enforce the rule that children over the age of 2 should wear a mask.  However, if your therapist insists that your child wear a mask, then that will be a requirement directly between the two of you. We respect our therapists’ individual comfort levels with safety precautions and ask that you respect them as well.


Protocol Acknowledgment and Health Certification:

Before your child’s first in-person session, we are asking clients to submit an acknowledgment of these protocols and a health certification, which you can find here. Thank you again for your cooperation and for helping all of us stay healthy!