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Communication and Your 4- to 5-Year-Old

Communicating with our kids is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding parts of parenting. Children learn by taking in information through daily interactions and experiences with us and the world around them.

Between the ages of 4 and 5, many kids enter preschool or kindergarten programs, with language skills a key part of learning in the classroom.

How Kids Communicate

As kids gain language skills, they also develop their conversational abilities. Kids 4–5 years old can follow more complex directions and tell you all about the things they do. They can make up stories, listen carefully to stories, retell stories, and say what comes next in a well-known story.

Their sentences include 4 or more words, and their vocabulary continues to grow. Speech should be completely understandable, although there may still be some developmental sound errors (like lisping) and stuttering, particularly among boys.

What Can I Do?

Reading books, singing, playing word games, asking questions, and talking to your kids will help increase vocabulary and improve their listening skills. Here some ways you can help boost communication:

  • Talk about the day's activities.
  • Talk with your child about the books you read together.
  • Talk with your child about the TV programs and videos you watch together and games you play.
  • Keep kids’ books, magazines, and other reading material within easy reach.
  • Help kids create their own "This Is Me" or "This Is Our Family" album with photographs and other mementos.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Talk to the doctor if you’re concerned about your child’s language skills or speech clarity.

By 4 years old, most children can:

  • say sentences with 4 or more words
  • repeat words from a song or story
  • talk about at least one thing that happened during the day

By 5 years old, most children can:

  • tell a story with at least 2 events
  • answer simple questions about a book or story
  • keep a conversation going with more than 3 back-and-forth exchanges
  • use or recognize simple rhymes, like bat-cat

Also call the doctor if you think your child has trouble with hearing, or if you have any other concerns. 

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: May 17, 2022

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