A speech pathologist’s tips for your 3 year old

As a fellow parent of a three year old, I can relate – their amazing imagination, playfulness, ability to hold a conversation and of course, their skills in an ultimate stand-off with their parent when they just DO NOT want to do something. But what are the typical play and communication skills we look for in a three year old? And what can you do as a parent to continue to foster their development?

A 3 year old would exhibit these communication skills:


  • Shows you an object when you say what it is used for (e.g., ‘Show me the one that you cut with’)
  • Follows two-step instructions (e.g., ‘Get the book and put it on the table’)
  • Understands location words (e.g., on, in, off); quantity words (e.g., all, one, some); describing words (e.g., wet, dirty, soft)
  • Puts 3-5 words together in a sentence (e.g., ‘He took my ball’, ‘Daddy’s gone to work now’)
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
  • Uses basic grammar (e.g., eating, toys)
  • Asks ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions (e.g., ‘Where are we going?’, ‘What’s that mummy?’)
  • Speaks smoothly without stuttering
  • Uses these sounds correctly: p, b, m, w, t, d, n, k, g, h, y, f, s
  • Is understood by familiar listeners 75% of the time

“Play is the most natural environment for a child to learn and acquire his use and understanding of language.” Paul, R. 2007

A 3 year old would exhibit these play skills:


  • Interested in playing with other children
  • Forming friendships (e.g., showing affection and concern for friends)
  • Imaginative play (e.g. pretending to be a firefighter or a doctor) and playing cooperatively in small groups (e.g. taking turns)

How you can support your 3 year old’s development:


  • Give your child lots of playtime: play helps preschoolers express feelings like joy, excitement, anger or fear. Your child might like messy play in sand or mud, play with puppets or toys, or outdoor play with plenty of running, tumbling and rolling.
  • Make time for creative and artistic play: this might be painting, drawing or dress-up games. Musical play is another idea – your child might like to dance, jump around or make music with simple instruments.
  • Read with your preschooler: reading together, telling stories, singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes all encourage child’s thinking, learning and talking.
  • Play games with your child that involve learning to share and taking turns. When you play, say things like, ‘Now it’s my turn to build the tower, then it’s your turn’, or ‘You share the red blocks with me, and I’ll share the green blocks with you’. Sharing is still hard for children at this age, so give your child lots of praise when he shares.

How Little Birdie Book Boxes will nurture your 3 year old:


We have identified all the great things about being a 3 year old – play play play! All our activities are play-based and provide opportunities for your child to grow in every way – speech, language, reading, fine motor, gross motor, play. It’s all there for you and your child to enjoy together!

Check out all our available boxes and subscriptions on your Shop page.

Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention (3rd ed.) by Rhea Paul, 2007.