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A Guideline to hearing and speech milestones (3-4 years)

A Guideline to hearing and speech milestones (3-4 years)

By Talia Aronowitz 

Please note the following is a rough guideline of the different hearing and speech milestones and cannot be used as a replacement for an assessment by a professional speech and language therapist or audiologist. This guideline represents the average age by which most children who are learning one language will reach the listed milestones. Children typically do not master all items in a category until they reach the upper age limit in each age range. If your child has not developed one skill within an age range it does not necessarily mean that your child is delayed. However, if your child is not doing the majority of items in an age range please consult a speech-language therapist or an audiologist. Please consult an audiologist if your child does not seem to be reaching the hearing milestones on time or consult a speech therapist if your child does not seem to be reaching the speech milestones on time.

Hearing and Understanding

  • Hears television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • Understands words for some colors, like red, blue, and green
  • Understands words for some shapes, like square and circle
  • Understands words for family, like sister, grandfather, and uncle.
  • Hears you when you call from another room.


  • Talks about activities at school or at friends.
  • Talks about what happened during the day.
  • People outside of the family usually understand child’s speech.
  • Answers simple “who?”, “what?”, and “where?” questions.
  • Asks when and how questions.
  • Says rhyming words, like hat-cat
  • Uses pronouns, like I, you, me, we, and they
  • Uses some plural words, like toys, birds, and buses
  • Uses a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words.
  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words.

What can I do to help speech and language development?

  • Cut out pictures from old magazines. Then make silly pictures by gluing parts of different pictures together in an improbable way. For example, glue a picture of a dog to the inside of a car as if the dog is driving. Help your child explain what is silly about the picture.


  •  Expand vocabulary and the length of your child’s utterances by reading, singing, talking about what you are doing and where you are going, and saying rhymes.


  • Sort pictures and items into categories, but increase the challenge by asking your child to point out the item that does not belong in a category. For example, a baby does not belong with a dog, cat and mouse. Tell your child that you agree with his or her answer because a baby is not an animal.


  • Read books that have a simple plot, and talk about the story line with your child. Help your child to retell the story or act it out with props and dress-up clothes. Tell him or her your favorite part of the story and ask for his or her favorite part.


  • Look at family pictures, and have your child explain what is happening in each one.


  • Expand on social communication and storytelling skills by “acting out” typical scenarios (e.g., cooking food, going to sleep, or going to the doctor) with a dollhouse and its props. Do the same type of role-playing activity when playing dress-up. As always, ask your child to repeat what he or she has said if you do not understand it completely. This shows that what he or she says is important to you.


  •  Work on comprehension skills by asking your child questions


(adapted from www.asha.org)