Milestones - By four years

Understanding of language

Your child will understand more and more of what people are saying.  He will follow requests and instructions with four key words or in two parts, e.g. “Get your coat and stand by the door”. He will understand “Why” questions, listening and responding to questions about experiences, events and stories, including questions about past and future events.  Games link “Simon Says” or musical statues help children develop their listening skills.

Check it out
  • Can your four year old follow simple two part instructions reasonably well? E.g. “Get the big scissors and some blue paper from the drawer.”

  • Talk about a story you have just read and ask your child a couple of questions. Can they understand simple “why” questions?

Use of words and sentences
By four years old, children can explain their ideas, talk in sentences and talk about things that have happened in the past. They can use longer sentences and link sentences together, e.g. “I had pizza for tea and then I played in the garden.” They can answer questions about “why” something has happened.

Check it out
  • Can your child explain where they went and what happened? E.g. the child says “Tom and Sarah and me goed park and played on swings.

  • Can they use longer sentences joined up with words like “because”, “or” and “and”? e.g. “I like jelly because it is wobbly.”

  • Are they easily understood by others?

Speech sounds
Your four year old uses most sounds correctly but may still have difficulty with “th”, “r”, “sh”, “ch” and “j”. Children of this age still find sounds within words with several syllables tricky, e.g. escalator. Errors where words have groups of consonants are still common, e.g. “bider” instead of spider.

Any concerns?
It is important to remember that all children are different and your child may develop at a faster or slower rate than others. If your child has a nanny, childminder or goes to nursery talk to them. It is always helpful to have information about how your child talks and communicates in other places.

Learning to talk is a complicated process and no children get it right straight away. Usually children have learned to talk clearly by the time they are four. By this age, usually everyone can understand them, even people who don’t know them very well. Sometimes children can be slow to develop their speech sounds, or find it really difficult, and this can make them hard to understand.

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 health visitor, children’s centre 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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