Speech and Language Milestones For a 3-Year Old

Enrichment Therapies

June 15, 2023

Young child smiling

By: Meghan Randig, M.A., CCC-SLP

Communication is multifaceted and looks a little bit different for every child. However, there are some general language abilities and milestones we can expect to see by a certain age. The following is an outline of language skills that most three-year-olds display.  

Expressive Skills

Expressive language abilities relate to what your child produces (verbal speech, gestures, etc.).

  • Combines 3-4 words in a phrase or sentence
  • Uses many of these sounds: /b, p, t, d, m, n, h, g, k, f, w/ and all vowels
  • Is about 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar person (e.g., your neighbor, family friend, etc. can understand about 75% of what your child says)
  • Says their first and last name 
  • Uses nouns, verbs, and pronouns in spontaneous (non-imitated) speech (e.g., My ball rolls)
  • Uses all words like “a”, “the”, “am”, “is”, and “are” in sentences
  • Can tell at least three items from a common category (e.g., Tell me something you can eat)
  • Tells at least two things about an object (e.g., Tell me about your toy)

Receptive Skills

Receptive language abilities are related to what your child understands.

  • Follows 3-step commands independently 
  • Can identify which object is the smallest from a group of three
  • Understands pronouns (e.g., me, your, my)
  • Answers a variety of wh- questions (e.g., what, where, when, why, who)
  • Identifies parts of an object (e.g., body parts or things that you wear)

Play Skills

Play comprises expressive and receptive language, as well as the social-emotional component of language.

  • Pretends to be someone or something else
  • Takes reciprocal turns during a game
  • Counts one-to-one correspondence 
  • Participates in a play scheme for at least one minute with a familiar adult 

It is important to remember that every child develops at their own rate. If your three-year-old has not mastered everything on this list, do not worry. If you do have concerns with your child’s language development, consider a consultation, screening, or evaluation with a speech-language pathologist to get your questions answered. 

ETLC Offers Individualized Speech Support

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center provides individualized speech and language support in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.


740 Community Drive, Suite A

North Liberty, IA 52317



5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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