Communication and Your 4- to 5-Year-Old

Communicating with their child is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for parents.

Children learn by absorbing information through daily interactions and experiences with other kids, adults, and the world. And between the ages of 4 and 5, many kids enter preschool or kindergarten programs, making language competency necessary for learning in the classroom.

Communicating With Your Child

The more interactive conversation and play kids are involved in, the more they learn. Reading books, singing, playing word games, and simply talking to kids will increase their vocabulary while providing increased opportunities to develop listening skills.

Here are a few suggestions to improve your child's communication skills:

  • Help your child relate to books by selecting stories that mirror families like yours or people from your cultural or ethnic group.
  • Keep books, magazines, and other reading material where kids can reach them without help.
  • Help kids create their own "This Is Me" or "This Is Our Family" album with photographs or mementos.
  • Talk with your child about books or TV programs and videos that you watch together.
  • Let your child see you reading and enjoying books.

Vocabulary and Communication Patterns

As kids gain mastery over language skills, they become more sophisticated in their conversational abilities. Kids ages 4 to 5 years can follow complex directions and enthusiastically talk about things they do. They can make up stories, listen attentively to stories, and retell stories.

At this age, kids usually are able to understand that letters and numbers are symbols of real things and ideas, and that they can be used to tell stories and offer information.

Sentence structures may now incorporate five or more words, and vocabulary is between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Speech at this age should be completely intelligible, although there may be some developmental sound errors and stuttering, particularly among boys.

Preschoolers generally are able to make comments and requests and give directions. They should know the names and gender of family members and other personal information. They often play with words and make up silly words and stories.

If You Suspect a Problem

If you suspect your child has a problem with hearing, language acquisition, or speech clarity, talk to your doctor. A hearing test may be one of the first steps to determine if your child has a hearing problem.

If a specific communication deficit or delay is suspected, the doctor may recommend a speech-language evaluation. A child who also appears to be delayed in other areas of development may be referred to a developmental pediatrician or psychologist.

Typical Communication Problems

Communication problems among kids in this age group include:

  • hearing difficulties
  • problems following complex directions
  • difficulty with conversational interaction
  • poor vocabulary acquisition
  • difficulty learning preschool concepts, such as colors and counting
  • stuttering
  • difficulties with grammar and syntax
  • unclear speech

Some kids will outgrow these problems. For others, speech therapy or further evaluation may be needed. Your doctor will help determine whether your child would benefit from speech and language evaluation and treatment.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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