It is essential that children reach developmental milestones appropriate for their age so that they don’t fall behind and miss crucial marking points in their growth. As parents, it is vital to know what is considered “typical” and expected at your child’s age so that if there is an issue, it can be addressed right away. In this blog, we are going to briefly explain skills encompassed in the following three developmental areas for children ages 3-7: speech, language, and articulation. Additionally, we’ll describe typical milestone expectations in these areas for this particular age group.
What is speech?
Speech is how we communicate or how we say sounds, words, and sentences. Speech is an umbrella term that includes the following skills:
Articulation: how we make speech sounds using our tongue, lips, and mouth.
Voice: how we use our breath and vocal cords to produce sounds.
Fluency: The overall rhythms of our speech, including talking and pausing.
Articulation is a skill that falls under the umbrella of speech and refers to the ability to produce sound by the use of our lips, tongue, and other oral structures of the mouth and jaw. Certain movements of the mouth are required to produce speech sounds, including pursing the lips, clicking the tongue, opening the jaw wide, etc. These oral movements work in conjunction with the vocal cords and respiratory system to produce speech.
At age 3, the child uses most speech sounds, but may distort some of the more difficult sounds, such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th. They can use consonants in the beginning, middle, and end of words even though they may come out slightly distorted.
By age 4, the child is increasingly understandable. Although, longer words are still difficult to pronounce and often come out distorted.
By age 5, most of the child’s articulation should be quite clear and easy to understand. However, “r” and “th” sounds may still be slightly underdeveloped.
By age 6-7, there aren’t generally any specific articulation milestones since most are fully developed by this time. The focus tends to shift towards socialization and using articulation towards language development. In some instances, sounds may be left off the ends of words, which can make understanding expressive language a little tricky.
What is language?
Language includes the words that we use to formulate thoughts or ideas and to communicate our wants and needs. Skills included in language include formulating new words, recollecting learned words, putting words together, and being able to formulate a collection of words at different times to meet the demands of each social situation.
A 3-year-old is having fun with language and can understand when something sounds silly, like “do you have a monkey in your pocket?” Strangers can pick up on what most of the child is saying, and the child is now answering very simple questions. Children in this age group are starting to correctly identify colors and can often describe the use of objects, such as a “spoon” or a “car”. They can express ideas and feelings rather than just talk about objects in the world around them. They can repeat sentences, say their name and age, speak approximately 250-500 words, answer simple questions, and speak in 5-6 word sentences. Although they can speak relatively clearly, not everything they say is comprehensible until they get past age 4.
By age 4, the kiddo is understanding spatial concepts, including “behind”, “in front”, or “next to”. They are starting to grasp and answer complex questions, but sometimes with errors. They can now start answering “why” questions. These kids are starting to use irregular past tense verbs like “I ran” instead of “I runned”. They can describe how to do things, like drawing a picture. They can list items in categories and have a vocabulary of approximately 1,000 words.
At age 5, the child can carry out a series of 3 directions from another person. They now understand rhyming. They are actively engaging in reciprocal conversation and can use their imagination to create and share their own stories. They can also understand time sequences (1st, 2nd, 3rd). They can use compound or complex sentences and sentences that are approximately 8 or more words in length. They can also accurately describe objects.
By 6 years old, a child is starting to ask and answer factual and inferential questions, give directions, and use a wide variety of words rather than just the same ones over and over again. They can follow 3-step directions, answer “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “how”, and “why” questions. They can attend and listen to simple stories told by others and recall information provided to them. By age six children can copy or write letters of the alphabet.
By age 7, the child should be able to use past, present, and future tenses correctly. The child should be able to tell stories. They can provide a wide range of ideas in understandable expression. They are now starting to understand and appreciate joke telling.
Speech, language, and articulation as well as all underlying skills associated with these milestones are important contributing factors to a child’s daily function. A child attaining their milestones for these areas can make a huge difference in academics, daily living tasks,social participation, and overall survival. The Therapy Place can provide therapy services for children who need help achieving certain abilities that they are lacking or fall short in. Call us today for a free evaluation to see what your child may need help with.