Speech, language and communication development: 24-36 months

Speech, language and communication development: 24-36 months

This is my second in a series of posts to provide you with information about speech, language and communication milestones, what to expect and how to encourage development of these skills. In my previous post I focused on speech, language and communication development at 18-24 months, you can view that post here. Today’s post is all about the next stage in your child’s development, 24-36 months.

Between two and three years, language is developing rapidly and children find real enjoyment in using their language to communicate and share with you their thoughts and feelings. Although children are using more new words every day, they can understand a lot more than they can say and express, which can be frustrating for them.

What to expect
When we talk about development of skills it is important to remember that all children develop at their own pace. Below is a list of skills that most children have developed by their third birthday.

Understanding of language

By three years old, children should be able to:

  • Understand two-three step directions, e.g. “Get the book and put it on the table”, “Get your shoes, coat and bag”
  • Understand simple prepositions, including ‘in’ ‘on’ and ‘under’
  • Understand simple ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions

Speech sounds

  • Children can vary as to which early sounds they learn first but by their third birthday most children use the following sounds in their speech: m, n, p, b, t, d, k, g, h, w, ng.
  • Some children are starting to use f and s.
  • Children continue to have problems producing more difficult sounds such as r, l, y, z, v, sh, ch, th, j, clusters (st pl tr)
  • By their third birthday children will continue to mispronounce words but their speech is getting clearer. Parents should be able to understand around 75% of what their child is saying.

Spoken language

  • After their second birthday children begin to use lots more two word combinations, e.g. “mummy gone” and “car go”. Sentence length gradually increases and by their third birthday children link 3-5 words together to form simple sentences.

Although many words are still unclear, by three years children will:

  • Have over 300 words that they attempt to use in their expressive vocabulary
  • Use a range of action words e.g. ‘eat’ ‘run’ ‘sleep’
  • Use ‘big’ and ‘little’
  • Use prepositions ‘in’ ‘on’ and ‘under’, simple plurals by adding ‘s’ e.g. ‘cats’ and early pronouns such as ‘me’ ‘you’ ‘mine’.


  • Children will frequently watch other children play and enjoy playing alongside and imitating some of their play. By 3 years, they are sharing play and engaging in simple turn taking games with other children and adults.
  • Children sit for simple stories for longer periods of time. They often like to hear the same story over and over again and they are able to identify items and actions in the pictures.

Tips to encourage language and communication development

  • Repeat and expand on what your child says to show him/her the next stage in his/her language development. If your child uses two words for example, “mummy car”, you could add language and say “mummy’s red car” or “mummy is driving the car”.
  • Ask your child questions that require a choice, rather than questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer. So instead of asking, “Do you want a snack?” you could ask “Do you want some apple or grapes?”
  • It is normal for children to make speech errors and struggle to articulate certain sounds as their speech is developing. Instead of correcting them and asking them to say it again, it is better to say the whole word back to them as you would say it. For example if your child says “doggy wun in park” you could say “yes, the dog is running in the park”.
  • Look through family photos and talk about the photo using simple sentences, e.g. “Lucy is riding her bike”, “Tom is eating an ice cream”.
  • Sing nursery rhymes together, make up rhymes and read rhyming stories. You could also try clapping out syllables to simple words as discussed in my previous blog here. These games develop sound awareness skills in a fun way.
  • Teach your child new vocabulary by talking about and describing the things around you. For example if you were cooking with your child you could introduce new action words such as mixing, stirring, cutting, pouring, shaking and spreading. You could also talk about concepts such as hot/cold, wet/dry and big/small/little. You can also introduce new vocabulary and talk about what different objects are used for, such as spatula, whisk or scales.

Where to go for help

Learning language and communication skills can be a difficult process for some children and they may benefit from extra support from a Speech and Language Therapist. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language and communication skills you should discuss these with a Speech and Language Therapist, your child’s Health Visitor or GP.

For more information about Speech and Language Therapy services provided by Let’s Talk Speech, you can visit our parent page. You can also follow us on facebook for tips and further information about speech and language development.

I am a fully qualified Speech and Language Therapist with a First-class honours degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy. I am a registered member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice and the Health and Care Professions Council.
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