Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
More Articles Browse All Articles >>

You are in:  Learning | Best Strategies to Stimulate Your 3-year-old's Language Development

Best Strategies to Stimulate Your 3-year-old's Language Development

By Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC

Your three-year-old is a delightful conversational companion, asking about their world and telling you about their experiences. Here are some strategies to encourage language development in your three-year-old:

  1. Be a daily play partner with your child. It will give her an opportunity to practice her conversational skills (taking turns), discussing her daily activities, and asking questions to gather more information. This undivided attention with pauses for her to continue the conversation, boost her emotional well being also.

  2. Make time to play one-on-one. If a new baby arrives, the time alone with your toddler can "fill her emotional tank" and alleviate some of the feelings she might have of competing for Mommy's time.

  3. Keep the play times fun, enriching and natural. Don't turn them into teaching sessions. Many children this age are starting to name colors, shapes and numbers. If you drill these concepts they will be uninteresting to your child, or he will only know them by rote, and will be unable to understand them in the context of play and language. Remember, language is learned through experience. For example, talk about the tall blue tower and the red boat going under 2 bridges!

  4. Follow her conversations that arise naturally. As with play, follow your child's lead in play and conversation. Don't force her to "finish" a play scheme if she has moved on to another idea.

  5. Have conversations with your child about what she has been doing, but now, in addition to the details, talk about "why" things happened, and her feelings about the event. This is an opportunity to use lots of new words and explain them in the context of an event such as "disappointed", "grumpy", "mad" or "sad".

  6. Continue to use new, longer, more complex words in many contexts. "The hermit crab is leaving his shell. The hermit crab grew too big for his home. The hermit crab eats off the floor of the ocean."

  7. Sometimes her words get jumbled when she is trying to explain something complicated for her . Affirm her with "yes" and then re-order her sentence correctly. For example, a little girl was playing with a car and play figures and she said, "The car sit and go" when she meant, "The Daddy sits and the car goes!" As your child's language progresses, sometimes their mind thinks faster than they can talk!

  8. Expand on her conversations. If she says, "I rode the airplane" you could add, "Yes, you rode the airplane with Daddy at Rye Playland last night!" Often this will encourage her to add some details too.

  9. Books for Book TimeTake advantage of book time. In Jim Treslease's well known book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, he says that a 3-year-old hears three times the rare words in books as she hears in conversation. This is a rich area for learning language and expanding vocabulary, grammar, and learning about new subjects. Emphasize rhyming words and select books that emphasize them such as Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw. Repeat the rhyming words and let your child hear that they have the same endings. Hearing that words are made up of different sounds, is a precursor to reading. Select some books that repeat a word in larger print and point out the word as you read it. Squeaky Clean by Simon Puttock repeats NO, PLOP, and EEK. Continue to choose books with rich stories such as Swimmy by Leo Lionni or Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes. Talk about feelings, why? and what might come next.


About the Author
Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a Speech-language pathologist and founder of

Share This

Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

Award-Winning Products for Learning

Article Archive

Reference Tools & Homework Helpers

Sign Up
Our news & features delivered to your inbox.