It is the preschool years when children’s language abilities really take off. By the age of 5, while your preschooler won’t be able to engage in a political discussion, she will be able to clearly communicate and understand the communication of others. But this skill is actually the composition of many highly specific skills learned in the preschool years. The mastery of these skills is the main language goal for preschool children.
Sound and Syllable Awareness
By the age of 2, a child has a solid awareness of the sounds belonging to her language. Even without knowing the written language, preschool children are able to rhyme with basic sounds, creating new, sometimes meaningless, sounds that are still part of the language, often at the annoyance of a mom in the driver’s seat. This awareness of the native language strengthens immensely during the preschool years, extending from sounds to more complex forms of phonetic awareness, such as the ability to tell you how many syllables are in a certain word. The main result of the development of phonetic awareness in the preschool years is a newfound ability to connect sounds to the written language.
A 10,000-Word Vocabulary
Preschoolers learn a language breathtakingly quickly. The average mom might take several years before she memorizes 10,000 words in a foreign language, but the average preschooler will know 10,000 words by the time he is ready to go to school. This learning of words is not without its novelty. Your preschooler will learn vocabulary faster than he learns grammar. A preschooler’s language development is a natural, instinctive process; he will use cues from adults to figure out what words mean, but not how to use them. A preschooler might therefore know that “babysitter” means mom and dad are leaving for a while with a friendly girl staying in the house for a bit. Thus, don’t be surprised to hear, “Nina babysitters me.”
Be prepared to miss the cute sentences of the toddler years. Preschoolers begin filling in those missing words when forming sentences. In terms of language development, this is an improvement in grammar more than anything. Here, prepositions and articles miraculously begin appearing in sentences. So, if you were getting familiar with your toddler’s request for you to “sit chair,” now’s the time to cherish it, as soon it will become the grammatically correct “sit in the chair.”
Not only does a preschooler start making correct, and therefore longer, sentences, but she also begins connecting sentences in a sequential way. By the age of 5, children will be correctly using conjunctions such as “so” and “because,” as in “My balloon flew away so I cried.” This makes for an unceasing river of words in some motormouth toddlers, at the immediate delight and successive irritation of the parents. But such a form of discourse should delight most parents, as it shows of the intelligence of a child. The ability to link related sentences not only shows an improvement in language skill but also an ability to think logically.
Talk to Me, Baby!: How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development
Small Talk: How to Develop Your Child’s Language Skills from Birth to Age Four