It’s September and your child is starting  kindergarten.  You are excited and anxious but most of all you are hopeful that your son or daughter will make friends, be successful and feel  happy.  With everything that your child has been learning in preschool to be ready for this special time, how do you know if he/she is speaking the way that he/she should be?

During the early years of speech and language development children are developing rapidly growing vocabularies from their experiences.  They begin to connect their words and ideas with grammatical structures to create sentences that become increasingly longer and more complex . Some children will speak more than others and some children will speak more clearly than others.  How do you know if your child is on target?

Below are some guidelines to help you know if your child’s speech and language skills are within the range of what is expected for a kindergartner.  Your child should:

  • have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words that incudes items within  common categories such as family, food, clothing, animals, home, places and transportation
  • use grammar such as pronouns, adjectives, verb tenses, plural and possessive “s” and prepositions to put words together in sentences
  • put together related sentences using connecting words like “and, because, so, and then, but and when”
  • ask and answer basic wh-question forms like “who, what, where, what-doing” and more abstract questions like “ why, when and how
  • talk about events in the present as well as the immediate past and future
  • follow several verbal directions consistently and understand words like “first, last, before, after, more, most, less, none and some”
  • listen to a short story for approximately 15 minutes and be able to answer basic questions about the main characters and events in the story
  • engage in conversation by talking to people, asking relevant questions and staying on topic
  • speak clearly enough so family and strangers can  understand your child 90-100% of the time, despite a few sound changes that may still be present but are appropriate for his/her age

If your child is not able to do some of these, you should contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns.


We all want our children to grow up to be good communicators, but what does that mean? What we are really saying is that we want our children to be able to express themselves, to engage in appropriate conversation, to explain how they are feeling and why, to tell us about things that have happened and to be develop positive social relationships. We want our children to be able to speak clearly so they are understood by their family, friends, teachers and others in the community. We want our children to learn to be good listeners, speaking “with” people and not “at” them and to respond appropriately to what they hear.

How do you know if your child is lagging behind his or her peers and is not an effective and successful communicator? Most parents and caretakers have a good sense about whether or not their child is on the right track, but may or may not know what skills are in need of strengthening and what behaviors are getting in the way of talking, listening and/or participating. Here are some red flags to look out for that may signal that you need to look further into your child’s speech and language skills:

  • if your child is between 8-12 months of age and is not babbling (playing with different speech sounds) and/ or turning towards and looking at people who are talking
  • if your child is between 1- 1 ½ years of age and is not using meaningful words, following simple directions and/or demonstrating appropriate eye contact
  • if your child is between 1 ½ -2 years of age and is not talking with a vocabulary of at least 100 words, starting to combine words and/or understanding simple directions and questions such as “what” and “where”
  • if your child is between 2-3 years of age and is using a lot of jargon when talking (non-meaningful gibberish), pointing rather than speaking, answering your question by repeating the question, using only one-word utterances and/or does not seem to understand simple directions and questions
  • if your child is between 3-3 ½ years of age and cannot be understood most of the time, is not speaking in sentences, using grammatical endings (eg. –ing, plural “s”), talking about what other people are doing and/or responding appropriately to various questions and directions
  • if your child is 3 ½-4 years of age and is not speaking about past events, asking many questions (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), speaking in connected sentences, speaking clearly and/or following 2-3 part directions
  • if your child is 4-5 years of age and has problems with pronunciation of words, is not able to describe an outing or event, answer complex questions appropriately (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), use imaginative language in pretend play and/or follow several directions consistently

The first years of a child’s life provide the foundation for what kind of communicator your child will be. If you recognize any of the above behaviors in your child’s speech and/or language, you should contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns. If help is needed, the speech-language pathologist will recommend an individual program of activities to help your child and provide therapy if it is appropriate. Remember, we want to help our children to be the best that they can be!

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