3-4y Use of Language

What is it?

Expressive language means your child’s use of language, e.g. learning to say new words and putting them together. This can also include non-verbal communication, such as use of gestures. As children develop, they grow their vocabulary and use longer, more complex sentences.

What to expect?

By 4 years old, children will usually:

  • Ask lots of questions!
  • Use longer sentences, e.g. 5+ words
  • Describe events that have happened
  • Use colour, number and time words, e.g. ‘blue car’

Information & advice

You can help your child by:

  • Talking with them and commenting on what is happening – this teaches them new words
  • Sharing books and nursery rhymes with them
  • Talk about what you are going to be doing today. It helps children to learn to sequence and to start to use words such as first, last, now and next.
  • Listen to your child carefully and give them time to talk.
  • Repeating back and adding one word to what they say, e.g. if they say ‘big dog’, repeat back, ‘big dog running’.

Watch our video on using words, sentences and beyond.


  • Special Time – spend 10 minutes with your child with no distractions, do an activity together, e.g. play a game or talk about their day with them. Turn off the TV/radio and play together instead.
  • Play with words and sounds, e.g. think of things that rhyme, think of things that start with the same sound
  • Tap box- put some objects in a box and explore them together. Your child has to tap the box for it to open and take 1 toy out at a time. Talk about it and then tap on the box to find the next item.
  • Feely bag- a bag of objects to explore …. Without looking! Put your hand inside and describe what you feel, is it soft, spiky or squashy? Can you guess what it is?
  • Action game- can you make different actions together? Who can jump the highest or turn around the fastest? Encourage your child to have a turn and choose the action.