Preschoolers often mispronounce words in the most adorable ways. By the time your child reaches preschool, most of what she says should be easy for others to understand. It can be difficult to get most kids this age to stop talking, and all of that practice is good for the development of their speech and language skills. While mispronunciations are common, children with more distinct speech disruptions, such as lisps or stutters, may benefit from a visit to a speech therapist.
Language Goals for 3 and 4 Year Olds
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has outlined some milestones for normal language development in preschoolers. Children ages 3 and 4 should frequently use sentences that have more than four words. They should talk a lot about things they have done during the day, and people outside of the family should be able to understand most of what they are saying. Speech should come relatively easily and they should be able to talk without having to repeat a lot of words or syllables.
Language Goals for 4 and 5 Year Olds
As they get older, preschoolers should be able to speak in a clear voice and tell stories that stay on topic, even if the topic involves a dinosaur that ate waffles for breakfast. Their grammatical choices should match those made by family members. Kids between the ages of 4 and 5 should also use sentences that provide some details. The most difficult sounds to say for kids this age include l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh and th.
Evaluating Your Child
Children are unique and will reach various milestones at different times. It is important to pay close attention to your child’s speech patterns because problems caught early are often easier to solve. Kids who have problems with receptive language, or understanding, might have difficulty following directions, answering questions, taking turns talking or identifying pictures and objects. Kids who have problems with expressive language, or talking, might struggle to ask questions, use gestures, form complete sentences, learn rhymes and songs and use correct pronouns. A number of these issues are common for many preschoolers for a short time. A speech therapist or audiologist should evaluate long-term issues.
Promoting Preschool Language Development
It is important for preschoolers to recognize that words are made up of sounds. Helping them clap out the syllables of words will help them realize that each word consists of different sounds. Rhyming books and games also help preschoolers learn to listen for different sounds. If you notice that your child has difficulty pronouncing particular sounds, have your games focus on those sounds. Repetitive practice will help them perfect their speech.