2 - 5

Milestones & Key Facts


'Two words together by 2’…as we like to say!


A 2 year old’s language development can indicate how ‘school ready’ they’ll be by age 4.


Children over 3 years are expected to be linking 3, 4, 5…even 6 words together to form sentences.


Supporting our child’s communication skills now will mean they’re well prepared for starting school.


Between the ages of 2-5 years, children typically experience a large increase in the number of words they both use and understand.  By 5 years old they may well be able to use more than 2000 words. A child’s vocabulary often consists of mainly object words to begin with e.g. ‘milk’, ‘ball’ and then expands to include different types of words e.g. actions. Children begin to connect 2 words together often around 2 years old, and use their growing vocabulary to make phrases such as ‘more milk’ or ‘daddy car’ progressing to short sentences like ‘mama go home’. At first, you may also notice your child has some frustration as they start to know what they want to express, but can’t quite do it fully and clearly.  Children will begin to use past and future tense between 3-4 years, and it is typical for them to make errors with irregular verbs such as ‘runned’ for ‘run’.  Children can start to enjoy having conversations, and telling you what has happened during their day.  As their language skills develop, the way they tell stories, have conversations, and ask and answer questions becomes more mature with longer, better-formed sentences.

Children’s understanding also expands a great deal between 2-5 years.  They start by understanding concepts such as in/on/under, and simple questions that start with ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’.  ‘Why’ and ‘how’ questions will be harder to understand and typically develop from around 4 years onwards.  By 5 years, children can often understand and follow a sequence of events e.g. first we are going to the shop, next we will go to the park, and after that we are having lunch’.

A child’s attention skills continue to develop though the stages and mean they can more easily listen and focus on what adults are saying.  Around 2-3 years of age, children will still be easily distracted and need prompts such as calling their name to gain their attention.  Between 3-4 years they will start to enjoy listening to stories more but still find it hard to shift their attention from one thing to another until more flexible attention starts to develop and they are  able to listen and understand an instruction without stopping what they are doing.

Play skills are another area that will develop starting with early pretend play (e.g. feeding a doll), enjoying joining other children, then developing more complex imaginative play.

Chalk wall


At all stages of development, getting down to your child’s level, and adding comments to what they say will help.  You can also start to expand your child’s sentences when they do use words and sentences, so they can see how to make even longer and more complex sentences bit by bit.  Share books together and talk about what is happening in the pictures, slowly giving your child opportunities   to tell more of the stories through the pictures.  Provide pauses  for children to start conversations, and then take turns to help keep the conversation going, as well as using fillers like smiling, nodding, and encouraging them to talk more through comments such as ‘wow’… ‘really’, ‘you drew a red rabbit!’ rather than asking questions.

Join children in their play.  Let them lead but also add ideas they can try.  Giving children time to think and respond will also be really helpful so they can process what you have said and have time to formulate what they want to say.

Help & support

Local Children’s Centre or Early Years setting can provide a great deal of support to parents as well as activities designed to enhance children’s development.  We highly recommend inducting in playgroups and activity sessions in these settings to provide opportunities for your child to play and interact with children of a similar age – as well as help support their speech, language and communication development. If the child you care for is not yet in school, their Health Visitor is available to contact for advice and support.

Child Reading
General training


Discover our range of free online language resources offering tips you can easily apply with your child at home.

Child outdoors playing


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