Speech Development in Preschoolers

Unlike walking, learning how to talk is one skill that takes many years to master. Not only does your preschooler need to build up his vocabulary, but he also has to master pronouncing words correctly.

Learning the Words
When your preschooler turned three, her vocabulary had more than tripled in size since her second birthday. While it may have seemed pretty unbelievable that she had already learned about three hundred, she'll astound you in the coming year by expanding her vocabulary to more than 1,500 words. Even if she can't say every single word correctly, non-family members can still easily understand her.

Since his vocabulary is growing so quickly, your preschooler's ability to express himself will also be improving quickly. He will be able to say longer sentences and will be able to understand more involved instructions. Two or three step directions will no longer be a challenge for him to follow.

With all these new words floating around in her head, it's no wonder that your preschooler seems to have become such a chatterbox lately! But can you blame her? She just wants to show off this wonderful new skill that she is quickly mastering.

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It is very normal for children to have minor speech problems until they're about five-years-old. Not surprisingly, many preschoolers have troubles actually pronouncing some of the new words that they're learning. In fact, pronouncing words correctly is often one of the biggest challenges preschoolers face when developing their speaking skills.

Some of the most commonly mispronounced consonants include: l for y (lellow instead of yellow); w for r (wace instead of race); d for th (dat instead of that); and t for k (tite instead of kite). Other hard to say sounds for preschoolers include ch, j, and l. The main reason behind all these mispronunciations is the fact that your child can't actually see how you make the sound. Since these consonant sounds involve a particular positioning of the tongue, it takes a bit more practice to get them right.

Lisping is also often heard in preschoolers. While this speech impediment can take longer to clear up, your preschooler should outgrow it on her own by age seven. Until then, you can enjoy hearing her recite "Thally thells theashells by the theashore".

Although it may seem more troubling, stuttering is also a very common speech problem in young children. It occurs because your preschooler's mouth just can't keep up with all of his thoughts. Plus, he is still trying to master all the different sounds and remember which words are the right ones to use. Be patient and avoid finishing his sentences for him. By the time he is five or six-years-old, he should be all done with his stuttering.

You may also notice that your three-year-olds speech tends to be pretty choppy. At this age, her brain is still trying to get a grasp on thinking and speaking at the same time. By the time she's four, talking will require less concentration and the words will effortlessly flow out of her mouth.

By his fifth birthday, your preschooler should have few problems with his speech. His vocabulary will now be expansive enough for him to describe people and objects around him. He will have little problems asking questions and will happily tell you short stories.

What You Can Do
Here are some parenting tips to help your preschooler with her speech development.

  • Talk with your preschooler as much as you can to help build up his vocabulary.

  • Read with your preschooler daily. This will not only help with vocabulary, but with other language skills as well including grammar.

  • Speak clearly with your preschooler so she can hear how to properly pronounce words.

  • Resist the urge to constantly correct your preschooler's speech. This can make talking more frustrating for him.

  • While minor speech problems are normal when your preschooler is developing her language skills, if you suspect a problem don't hesitate to bring it up with her pediatrician or your family doctor. A referral to a speech specialist is sometimes warranted and early intervention can quickly clear up th