Milestones - By five years

Understanding of language
Your child can follow a short sequence of instructions just by listening, rather than stopping to look at the speaker. During a conversation children of this age can answer questions and provide more information when asked. They are beginning to understand time concepts like the days of the week, morning, afternoon, day and night. They can understand more complicated language such as “first”, “last”, “might”, “maybe”, “above” and “in between”. They understand words that describe sequences such as “first we are going to the shop, next we will play in the park”. Simple stories can be followed without pictures.
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  • Can your five year old listen for instructions while they are busy with something else? E.g. ask them to get their coat and shoes while they are playing (not TV or computer, as they are too absorbing).

  • Is your child beginning to get the idea of time? E.g. “Mummy will be here after lunch.”

  • Does your child understand a longer list of instructions? E.g. “First get your plate, then sit on the red chair.”

  • If you describe an object or person, can your child guess who or what you are talking about?

  • Can your child predict what will happen next in familiar events and routines?

Use of words and sentences
Your five year old can have conversations. They know lots of words and can use longer sentences that are better formed, e.g. “I had spaghetti for tea at Jamilia’s house”. They can link sentences using words like “and” and “because”. They like to talk about and explain what they are doing. They can talk to you about what they do and do not like.
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  • Can your child organise their thoughts and put longer sentences together?
  • Can your child re-tell short stories in roughly the right order and use language that makes it sounds like a story?
  • Can you usually follow what your child is saying?
Speech sounds
Your five year old can use most sounds correctly. Long words like “elephant” can still be tricky, and some speech sounds such as “r” and “th” and three consonant combinations, e.g. “scribble” may still be difficult.
Any problems or concerns?
It is important to remember that all children are different and your child may develop at a faster or slower rate. Here are some signs your five year old may be struggling:
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  • Do they regularly get frustrated or give up trying to tell you something?
  • Do they regularly forget the words or miss out important pieces of information?
  • Do they sound muddled and disorganised in their talking?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, language and communication development, for example, you think that they communicate less than other children their age, you should contact your child’s school or local speech and language therapist and talk to them about your child. You can contact a speech and language therapist yourself; you do not need to go through your GP or health visitor though Speech and Language Therapy services are run differently depending on where you live. You can get free resources and check out your child’s speech, language and communication development at

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Milestones - Age 3-5

3 years > 4 years > 5 years

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