Developmental Norms of the 3-4 Year-Old Child

What can I expect from my 3-year-old?

  • Expressive vocabulary of 350 words; Puts 3-4 words together with 80% clarity.
  • Understands quantity concepts: more, less, empty, a lot, big, tall.
  • Understands directions: up/down, in/our, on/off, in front/behind, under/over, next to.
  • Identifies all colors and shapes.
  • Separates from primary caregivers easily.
  • Follows an unrelated two-step direction (e.g. touch your nose and pick up the bear).
  • Follows a three step direction: “Go upstairs, get our shoes, and bring them down.”
  • Asks and Answers questions such as: what, where, who, why and “yes/no” questions.
  • Talks about a recent experience and has a simple conversation.
  • Adult like speech with 80% clarity; Words are no longer simplified.
  • Clearly produces /p, b, m, t, d, k, g, n, w, , w, f, ing/ in sentences.

What can I expect from my 4-year-old?

  • Has a 2500 expressive word vocabulary.
  • Initiates, maintains, and takes turns in conversations with adults.
  • Most sounds are produced clearly: /v, s, z, sh, ch, l, r, j/ with about 90% clarity.
  • Follows three-step directions without cues.
  • Uses 4-5 word sentences and says imaginary sentences (e.g., What if…I hope).
  • Uses words to invite others to play.
  • Understands time concepts: first, then, days of the week, months of the year.
  • Asks and answers advanced questions including: why, how, and when.
  • Asks “Do you want to…?” “Are we going to…?” “Can you…?”
  • Understands non-literal language such as idioms, jokes, humor.
  • Uses could, would, might, maybe, should in speech.
  • Tells what common objects are made of and their function.
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