5. Support for children aged 2 – 3 years

Children develop skills at different rates, but by 3 years usually, children will:

  • Listen to and remember simple stories with pictures
  • Understand longer instructions, such as 'make teddy jump' or 'where's mummy's coat?'
  • Understand simple 'who', 'what' and 'where' questions
  • Use up to 300 words
  • Put four or five words together to make short sentences, such as 'want more juice' or ‘he took my ball’
  • Ask lots of questions. They will want to find out the name of things and learn new words
  • Use a wider range of speech sounds. However, many children will shorten longer words, such as saying ‘nana’ instead of ‘banana’. They may also have difficulty where lots of sounds happen together in a word, e.g. they may say ‘pider’ instead of 'spider'
  • Often have problems saying more difficult sounds like sh, ch, th and r. However, people that know them can mostly understand them
  • Sometimes sound as if they are stammering or stuttering. They are usually trying to share their ideas before their language skills are ready. This is perfectly normal at this age; just show you are listening and give them plenty of time. It’s not helpful to draw attention to their ‘stammering’ by saying things like ‘take your time’. Just try to be patient and not interrupt them.

How to Support Your Child

There are lots of things you can do to encourage children at this stage:

  • Adding words to children's sentences can show them how words fit together. For example, if a child says, 'dolly hair' you can say 'brush dolly's hair’
  • Use puppets and pictures to help children listen to stories. Don't be afraid to tell a story more than once. Repetition helps children to understand and remember words
  • Give children the correct example for sounds and words. This helps if they are having problems saying a certain word or sound. If you correct them or make them say it again, you can make them feel anxious. Simply repeat what they have said using the right words and sounds. With time they will be able to do it themselves.

Things to look out for

For some children, developing communication skills can be very difficult. It is important that parents seek advice from a speech and language therapist if:

  • A child points or shows what they want rather than says it.
  • They only say single words instead of joining words together into short sentences.
  • They are slow to respond to your instructions.
  • They rely on being shown what to do rather than being told.