Speech and Language Milestones for a 4-year old

Enrichment Therapies

June 5, 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 four-year-olds display.

Communicating Expressively

Expressive language abilities relate to what your child produces such as verbal speech, gestures, and more. Here are a few more signs of expressive communication:

  • Combines 4-5 words in a sentence 
  • Is about 90-100% intelligible to an unfamiliar person (e.g., a person at the store can understand about 100% of what your child says)
  • Uses many of these sounds: /b/, /p/, /t/, /d/, /m/, /h/, /g/, /k/, /f/, /w/, y, ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘juh’ and all vowels
  • Uses ending of words (“ed,” “s,” “ing”)
  • Uses past tense “-ed” consistently
  • Can repeat 3 random numbers (3, 5, 8)
  • Tells at least 4 of the following: first name, age, the city he lives, last name, boy or girl, telephone number
  • Can tell the names of two playmates (not including siblings)
  • Knows the names of numbers and counts as they point to each individual item
  • Can tell a short story

Communicating Receptively

Receptive language abilities are related to what your child understands.

  • Understands and answers complex questions like “What do you do when you’re tired?”
  • Follows 3-step unrelated commands
  • Answers a variety of wh- questions (e.g., who, what, where, why, when, how)
  • Understands words for time, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow 
  • Understands words for order, like first, next, and last

Play and Functional Skills

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

  • Puts clothes on by him/herself
  • Starts to understand the concept of time and the order of daily activities (e.g., breakfast is in the morning)
  • Recognizes some letters and can name a few colors & shapes
  • Pretends to be someone or something else
  • Takes turns during a game 

Boost Your 4-Year-Old’s Communications Skills with Help From ETLC

It is important to remember that every child develops at their own rate. If your four-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. 

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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