Language Development Milestones for a Three-Year-Old Child

Young children need to be engaged in language rich experiences with families and caregivers in order to develop age appropriate speech and language skills.

Three-year-olds have a lot to say! As infants, children listen to sounds and words in their environment, practice how to make sounds and words, learn new words, and make sentences so that they can interact with the world around them. Talk, talk, talk! Young children need to be engaged in language-rich experiences with families and caregivers in order to develop age-appropriate speech and language skills.

There are two main types of language, receptive and expressive. Receptive language explores how a child understands what he/she hears and sees. A typically developing three-year-old can show a variety of receptive language skills. Language milestones for a typically developing three-year-old child include the ability to understand:

  1. 1000 vocabulary words or more
  2. Concept words, (e.g., location, size, numbers and feelings)
  3. Names of family members
  4. How to use objects
  5. Yes/no questions
  6. Basic “wh” questions, (e.g., what, where, who, when, how).

A young child of this age can also answer yes/no questions and basic “wh” questions as well as ask a variety of simple questions. This is also the age when children begin to tell their own personal stories (Lanza, Flahive, 2008).

woman coloring with a child

Expressive language examines how a child uses words, gestures, sentences, and writing to send a message. Expressive language milestones for a typically developing three-year-old child including the use of 3-4 words in a sentences and the ability to use nouns, verbs, pronouns, plurals, and past tense verbs. A child should also be able to listen to and understand simple stories, songs, conversations, and follow multi-step directions (Lanza, Flahive, 2008).

Language does not develop at the same rate for every child, however, there are certain “red flags” that signal possible delays. These can occur in one or both areas of language, receptive and/or expressive language. Receptive concerns include a child’s difficulty with:

  1. Looking and pointing to objects and pictures
  2. Maintaining eye contact
  3. Following directions
  4. Understanding questions
  5. Taking turns in a conversation.

Expressive language concerns look different and maybe noticeable to families and caregivers. They include difficulty with:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Answering questions
  3. Naming objects
  4. Pointing or whining instead of using words
  5. Combining 3-4 words in a sentence
  6. Vocabulary development (ASHA).

Language delays are the most common type of developmental delay in children. Statistics indicate that one out of five children will learn to talk later than their peers (Healthy Children, 2011). The research indicates that there are a variety of causes of a language delay. Sometimes the cause is unknown, but here are some of the more common causes:

  1. One of the first things to rule out is a hearing difficulty or loss. Many young children have ear infections which can cause inconsistent hearing or a hearing loss. If a child cannot hear consistently, then he will not develop language in a normal way. Any hearing concerns can be easily identified by certified professional Audiologist.
  2. A child’s environment can also cause a language delay. If a child is not spoken to or does not hear others speaking, he will not learn the language or how to use language appropriately.
  3. Another cause may be prematurity. When a baby is born prematurely this may lead to developmental delays, possibly including a language delay.
  4. In addition, neurological problems like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury may affect the muscles needed for speaking, thus causing a delay.
  5. Autism also affects communication. Communication problems are often an early sign of autism.

Gay couple playing with their child in the garden

Families who have concerns about their child’s language development should speak with the pediatrician and seek out the help of a certified professional Speech-Language Pathologist (Mott Children). Whether a child has a language delay or not, there are strategies and activities that all caregivers and families should use to promote language in children.

There are many practical everyday activities that promote language development in young children. The easiest way to encourage language development is to speak clearly to the child and model good speech. Children learn from their models. It is important to repeat what the child says, to indicate understanding, and then add on to what he says, modeling longer sentences. Activities for encouraging language development in young children include: reading repetitive books, singing songs, reciting nursery rhymes, engaging in finger plays, asking questions that include a choice, (e.g., “Do you want cookies or brownies?”), and helping the child learn new words [e.g., naming body parts and talking about what you do with them]. (ASHA, 2016). Family members and caregivers should make time to play with young children one-on-one, turn off the television, and reduce or eliminate screen time. Children learn a language when people talk to them, so talk about the things you do together, and the places you go (Parents Choice).

Language is an important tool that allows a child to communicate with his parents, peers and other people in his environment. Language helps a child grow into a person who can socially interact with others throughout life. It is critical that a child develops appropriate language skills at a young age and that families and caregivers engage in language-rich activities to promote the development of these skills.

To learn more, a Preschool course is available with enrollment in the Intermediate Childcare program at



Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development. (2016). Retrieved March 29, 2019, from
Best Strategies to Stimulate Your 3-year-old’s Language Development. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2019, from
Causes of Speech and Language Delays. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from
Language Delays in Toddlers: Information for Parents. (2011, November 18). Retrieved from
Lanza, J., Flahive, L. (2008). LinguiSystems Guide to Communication Milestones. IL: LinguiSystems.
Preschool Language Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from

Amslee Institute Chats with Darrin Prince, Author of Fitness for Child Athlete’s

Darrin earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Faith Bible College and Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Business Administration.

Our Facebook live guest is Darrin Prince. Darrin earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Faith Bible College and Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Business Administration. Darrin is USA Track & Field Level 1 Coaching Certified and a National Association of Speed & Explosion Level II Speed and Explosion Specialist. Darrin has been a collegiate coach of more than 700 athletes, has spent 17 years in the US Army, and is a licensed and ordained Minister of the Gospel.

The Fitness for Child Athlete’s course focuses the benefits of individual and team sports, the appropriate ages to compete in different sports, teaching sportsmanship, how to help keep athletes safe, hydration, and nutrition for athletes.

Many topics were discussed and view the replay to learn about:

  • Benefits to children who participate in sports
  • How to encourage but not pressure children to participate in sports
  • Age appropriate selection of different sports and activities
  • Sports that create a foundation for athlete’s
  • How to teach sportsmanship (to parents and children)
  • Why sports participations drops in middle and high school
  • Impact of social media and video games on children’s view of sports
  • What parents and caregivers can do to help child athlete’sSigns that a child is struggling with their participation in sports.

To learn more, a Fitness for Child Athlete’s course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program.

How Nutritious Is Your Child’s Packed Lunch?

Here are some nutrition guidelines and food ideas to help make sure your child has an interesting and nutritious lunch.

School has started and for many families – this means packing school lunches. It can be challenging to assemble a nutritious lunch day after day. Here are some nutrition guidelines and food ideas to help make sure your child has an interesting and nutritious lunch.

The USDA developed MyPlate to help identify and make healthy food choices. MyPlate divides food into five groups – Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, and Protein. The right mix and amounts of these food groups can create a healthier eating style that can last a lifetime.

What Types of Foods Are Needed?

So, what is the right amount of food for children? It depends on the child, their lifestyle, and their caloric requirements. On average, a 4 to 8 year-old girl requires 1200 to 1800 calories per day and the range depends on whether she has a sedentary, moderately active, or active lifestyle. A boy the same age would require (on average) requires 1400 to 2000 calories per day.

food diagram

MyPlate recommends food and beverage selections from all five food groups. The following are average daily intakes for children ages 4 to 18 by food group:

  • Fruits: 1 – 1 ½ cups
  • Vegetables: 1 ½ – 3 cups
  • Grains: 2 ½ – 4 ounces
  • Dairy: 2 ½ – 3 cups
  • Protein: 4 – 6 ½ ounces

How Much Food is Needed?

How much of their daily intake should be at lunch? Some families have a large breakfast and smaller noon and evening meals. Other families have a small breakfast, large midday meal, and a smaller evening meal. While three meals are commons, some families plan on eating small servings every few hours as snacks or small plates, rather than 3 meals a day. It doesn’t really matter when these calories are consumed during the day, it’s the total calorie count and overall nutrient intake that is important.

Let’s assume approximately 40% of the daily intake requirement for an elementary school child is consumed at lunch (480 to 800 calories). This means a healthy lunchbox should contain ¼ to ½ cups of fruit, ½ to 1 ¼ cups of vegetables, 1 – 1 ½ ounces of grains, 1 – 1 ¼ cups of dairy, and 1 ¼ – 2 ½ ounces of protein.

What Should Be Included?

Now that we know what we need, how can we assemble lunches that are appetizing and meet these requirements? A single serving of fruit is easy to include in a lunch box. Fresh fruits provide the most nutrition and can include grapes, berries, oranges, and apples. Dried fruits are easy to pack but be aware of the sugar content. Frozen fruits will generally thaw by lunchtime and are a great way to include out of season fruits. There are a lot of individual serving fruit cups on the market today – just be sure to read the ingredients and be aware of any added sugar.


Vegetables may be challenging since many children are picky about which vegetables they will eat. A single serving of vegetables is generally about a ½ cup, so there should be 2 to 3 servings in each lunch box. Ideas for veggies include sweet bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, pickles, carrots, snap peas, cucumbers, and celery. Some children may want to dip the veggies. Healthier dips include hummus, peanut butter, and some salad dressing.

A serving of grain is 1 ounce so include 1 to 1 ½ servings in each lunch. The majority of grains consumed in a day should be whole grains including whole grain breads, crackers, bagels, tortillas, and pitas.

The dairy food group is not limited to milk. Dairy includes cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Serving sizes are 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 ½ ounces of cheese, or 1 tablespoon of butter. A single serving of dairy should be included in each lunch and most school cafeterias will let the child buy milk. Yogurt tubes and cheese cubes are easy to pack.


Protein is sometimes a challenging food group since a lot of these foods require refrigeration, but freezer packs keep these items at acceptable temperatures until lunch time. The serving size for protein is ¼ cup or about 2-3 ounces. Generally, you will need 2 servings in each lunch. Peanut butter is a traditional source of lunchtime protein, but other protein options include meats, eggs, beans, and nuts. There are many single serving packages of various nuts available, just read the label for salts (sodium) and sugar. Check the school rules as some schools have nut restrictions due to child allergies.

Just because the USDA divides food into 5 groups, doesn’t mean you have to eat them individually. Whole wheat crackers can be combined with nitrite free ham slices and cheese. A cold wheat pasta salad can incorporate whole grains with vegetables. A kabob can contain meat, cheese, and vegetables. Also, tortillas can be used to create a variety of roll ups and can be eaten like a burrito or cut into spirals.

How Can I Get My Child to Eat It?

Just because you packed a nutritious lunch doesn’t mean the child will eat it. In order to encourage healthy eating, let the child have a say in the items they see when they open their lunchbox. Children as young as six can review a list of approved items and select what they want in their lunch each week. If it’s easier, have the children choose their fruits and vegetables at the grocery or farmer’s market.

Happy girl sitting in cart with parents at supermarket

Children who select their foods have a greater commitment to the meal. For younger children, make the food fun by cutting breads or fruits into interesting shapes or mix different colors of vegetables so they appeal to the young eye. For older children, have them prepare the foods and pack their own lunch boxes, filling it with healthy options from a preselected menu that limits processed foods such as potato chips and candy.

One last note – ensure you read the labels on any processed foods you want to include in the lunch box. You don’t want to have a nutritious meal plan and negate the benefits by including overly processed, high sugar, high salt, high fat, or high calorie foods. An occasional treat is great, but dessert and pleasure foods should not be consumed regularly.

To learn more, a Nutrition Basics course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program.

About the Author: Lynn Zepp earned her Master of Science in Food and Nutrition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Pennsylvania State University. Lynn is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist in Maryland. Lynn is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies, Au Pairs, Babysitters, and other childcare providers.

Is Your Child Ready for a Team Sport?

It’s that time of year again – school is in session and it’s time for fall sports. Every parent wants their child to be healthy and well rounded and for many families, that means participating in sports. How do you determine when a child is ready or interested in a particular sport?

ballerinasExpose children to many different sports.

Allowing children to try as many sports as possible during the early years benefits their growth and development. Every sport has something to offer, contributing muscle development and coordination for the child athlete. Specialization should be avoided until at least age 15 to ensure overall physical development and reduce sports injuries. Most children will not grow into world class athletes and participation in sports should be a “want to do” vs a “have to do”.

Allow the child to decide.

Children will let you know when they are interested as they will talk about the sport and ask to play. Don’t create or add pressure for a child to participate before they’re ready, even if they’re physically able to play. Sports should be fun and gratifying to the parent and caregiver, which only happens when the child is genuinely interested and gets pleasure from participating. It’s normal for children to occasionally show disinterest or not want to participate, but children should not be forced into a sport they do not enjoy.

disabled child athleteAvoid living vicariously.

Don’t let your aspirations or accomplishments drive what you expect from a child. Your interests may focus on soccer and baseball, but you may have a child that wants to run or ride a bicycle. Sports are a privilege and children should never be pressured or forced to play.

To support a child athlete, work on physical skills and movements in three categories. First, basic skills are the foundation that should be developed first and throughout the life cycle of the child athlete. For example, running is the foundation for most sports and activities. These skills should constantly be developed even when the child athlete becomes a high school, college and professional athlete. Then, children learn sport specific skills. Sport specific skills are unique to certain sports and are not necessarily skills that are used in every sport. While speed or sprinting is a skill that can be developed from the time the child athlete begins training, it is useful in specific sports such as soccer and baseball, but not necessarily useful in gymnastics or Tae Kwon Do. Finally, teenagers gain advanced skills. Advanced sports skills are learned as the child athlete advances to greater levels and stages of growth and development.

When choosing an after-school sport for your child, do a little research. Make sure the coaches understand that each child athlete is unique in how they learn, respond, receive and apply the information and instruction given to them. Also, make sure the program chosen for your child helps them develop fitness and teaches physical activity skills in a fun manner for the children.

To learn more, a Fitness for Child Athlete’s course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program.

Darrin PrinceAbout the Author: Darrin Prince. Darrin is a USATF (USA Track & Field) Level 1 Coaching Certification, NASE (National Association of Speed & Explosion) Level II Speed and Explosion Specialist, and collegiate coach of more than 700 athletes. Darrin earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Faith Bible College , a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Business Administration, and spent 17 years in the US Army. Darrin shares his expertise as an adjunct faculty member, teaching a Child Athlete course at Amslee Institute.

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