Norms and Deviations in Speech Development of Preschool Children

All parents know that proper speech development of the child is very important. 

All the excitement, such as joy when the first words are pronounced or anxiety when the child does not speak correctly, is understandable and logical. In this article, we will answer the following questions: 

– What are the normal stages of a child’s speech development? 

– What should one pay attention to? 

– How can you help your child succeed in their speech development? 

A child’s speech development is a complex and individual process. The World Health Organization describes the main stages in child speech development. The established criteria of speech development are necessary for parents to understand and respond to any delay in the speech development of their child in time.  

There are several age periods in speech development: 

Period 1 – Preparatory  

0-12 months. It is a so-called pre-speech period. This period is the basis for further speech development. During this period, visual and auditory reactions develop and vocal manifestations, such as humming and babbling, appear. One can also observe sound imitations (the child repeats a variety of sound combinations after an adult). By the end of the 1st year of life, the first words emerge (up to 20 words, mostly nouns).   

Period 2 – Pre-preschool 

1-3 years. The child takes great pleasure in repeating words after adults and pronouncing them independently. However, the child often distorts, rearranges, and confuses sounds and syllables. A considerable vocabulary enrichment occurs. The meaning of words becomes more definite. Grammar begins to develop. Simple sentences (2-3 words) appear in speech. The child can make a monologue using two or three simple sentences. 

By the end of the 3rd year, the vocabulary increases to 1000 words. The child “experiments” in the process of mastering speech. They can form new words, pronounce various and sometimes imaginary word combinations that do not exist in speech. 

Period 3  Preschool  

3-6 years. At this age, various adjectives and adverbs appear in the child’s speech. The child uses them to denote features and qualities of objects, describe temporary and spatial relations. They begin to use complex sentences, conjunctions, such as when, because, if, appear, etc. The child begins to coordinate adjectives with other parts of speech correctly. They begin to distinguish and use generic words (DISHES for plates, saucers, pots and cups; FURNITURE for a sofa, table, chair and bed) and abstract concepts (SADNESS, SORROW, FUN, JOYFULLY). 

Sound pronunciation improves. The omission of sounds and syllables occurs less often. Vocabulary increases to 3000 words. 

If the speech of your child does not correspond to the development standards described above, you should also pay extra attention to the following points: 

** Does your child have problems in other areas (e.g., slow response time or, vice versa, hyperactivity)? 

** Do their intelligence level correspond to the age norm? 

**Does the child use nonverbal methods of communication (shouts, gestures, facial expressions)? 

**Does the child have the ability to think symbolically (do they play with toys, do they repurpose ordinary objects while playing (a plastic bowl as a hat, leaves as money bills, etc.)? 

**Do you observe your child having difficulties with speech perception? Do they fail to react when addressed? 

A positive answer to the last question suggests that hearing impairment is present. In this case, it is necessary to visit an ENT specialist. 

Positive answers to all the questions except the last one indicate an isolated speech delay (not related to a health condition). In this case, your child will “catch up” with other children in their speech development.  

HOWEVER, such a child needs your help. 

To stimulate the speech development of the child, you should: 

 Encourage your child’s physical development. Outdoor games and toys contribute to the development of fine motor skills, which have a positive influence on a child’s ability to speak. 

 Create a rich linguistic environment. Parents should talk more with their children and in their presence. Conversations, comments, poems, and songs on any topic are welcome. 

 Read to your child! An abundance of pictures and thematic questions will help to engage them. While reading, it is necessary to make up a dialogue with your child. Ask them questions based on the learned information. Add interesting and emotionally colored details. 

 Develop auditory attention by analyzing sounds and noises. For example, if a dog is barking or a motor noise is heard ask them, “What do you hear?” 

 Encourage any speech initiative of your child. Provide naming and commentary to any actions the child and others around them do. 

 Reduce the time spent playing with gadgets and watching TV. The real learning process requires an intellectual and verbal effort from the child. Games and cartoons can replace passive content consumption. 

 Involve your child in conversations. You should ask their opinion, give them the right to choose, and find out where and how they spent time, and what emotions they experienced. 

Communication is the main way to positively influence the speech development of your child. While building communication with your child you should follow a number of rules

* In communication, only use short sentences. Make clear pauses between sentences to give the child an opportunity to hear, understand, repeat and/or respond. 

* The tempo of your speech should not be fast; but your speech should be emotionally colored. 

* While naming objects, you should demonstrate them. If you don’t have a chance to show them, use pictures or colorful photos. 

*It is important to repeat words many times and in various situations until your child remembers and reproduces them. 

*Goal-oriented communication should be built only if your child is active. A tired or sleepy child is unable to perceive and produce speech actively. 

*Do not ignore your child’s questions. Give clear and detailed answers to your child`s questions. Choose simple synonyms so that they fully understand the meaning of words. 

*If the child uses nonverbal communication (gestures, exclamations), do not try to comply with their wishes right away. Ask them a question, verbalize (pronounce the subject or action) what they want, and do it several times. 

*If the child makes mistakes in pronouncing words, prompt them but make sure to be very careful in correcting their speech mistakes. Do not blame the child for their poor speech. Do not make them repeat a word that’s difficult for them immediately and correctly as it often leads to the child refusing to speak at all and closing up. Correct their mistakes in a tactful and friendly tone. Do not repeat the child’s mispronunciation of a word – it is better to give an example of its correct pronunciation. 

*Do not copy the child’s speech. Abnormally pronounced sounds get into a child’s speech very quickly as they are easier for the child to articulate (pronounce words). In that case, the child will need special speech therapy classes to help them restructure the pronunciation of the “wrong” words. Give your child a simple but correct speech pattern. 

Stimulating, systematic and consistent parental influence on the child’s development will ensure the formation of a solid basis for their future speech and overall mental activity. 

Visit Kids Academy’s expert blog to find more professional advice on children’s development and well-being. 


  • Keilmann, A., Brauer, Th. How My Child Learns to Speak / Annerose Keilmann, Thomas Brauer. – Germany: Schulz-Kirchner Publishing House.  2005. – 130 p. 
  • Stengel, I. Language Difficulties with Children / Ingeburg Stengel.  – Germany: Klett-Cotta Publishing House.  2001. – 170 p. 
  • Language and the Child. Linguistics of Children’s Speech. Moscow: Vlados, 2000. – 240 p. 
  • Piaget, J. Speech and the Child Thinking / Jean-William-Fritz. Piaget. – M.: Pedagogy Press. – 526 p. 
  • Help Your Baby Learn to Talk. [Electronic resource]. Mode of access: . – Date of access: 19 December 2018. 

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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