Communication development: By 4 years

Communication development: By 4 years

When your child says something that is not clear, say it back for them so they hear it the right way rather than asking them to repeat it. Have fun with words and sounds. Talk with your child about exciting things that are going to happen. 

Here is some information about how children's communication skills usually develop by the age of 4. We have included some suggestions of activities to encourage communication at each age (tips). Use the language that you are most familiar and comfortable with.

By 4 years, most children...

  • understand more complex language structures; for example, 'why.... because'
  • ask lots of 'what', 'where' and 'why' questions to find out new information
  • take part in longer and more complicated make-believe play sequences with peers; for example, buying a ticket, going on the bus, getting off at the right stop and then getting back on
  • enjoy simple jokes – even though their jokes may not make sense!
  • can recognise their own written name
  • know some letter names
  • can recognise some printed words in the environment; for example, a stop sign
  • are attempting to write their name
  • are starting to use talking to make friends and to solve problems
  • can talk about what they have done and what they might do; for example, they can tell Nana about their trip to the park, then talk about what they want for dinner
  • can be understood by unfamiliar adults almost all of the time

Tips

  • when your child says something that is not clear, say it back for them so they hear it the right way rather than asking them to repeat it
  • have fun with words and sounds; for example, make up games about words that start with the same sound, make up silly words that rhyme
  • talk with your child about exciting things that are going to happen, to encourage talking about the future
  • let your child choose books to share with you
  • encourage your child to join in drawing and writing activities with you; for example, writing shopping lists, making special cards

The content on this page has been produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and adapted from Much more than words | Manuka takoto, kawea ake (2014) (PDF, 565KB)

This page last reviewed 19 February 2018.
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