You couldn’t wait for your precious baby to say your name. The slightest semblance of ‘Mama’ sent you running for the video camera. Now she won’t give you a minute of silence. Sound familiar? If you’ve got a kid in preschool, your time for peace and quiet has come to an end. But don’t fret. It’s a good thing. As exhausting as it may be, it’s absolutely developmentally appropriate for your kid to talk your ear off.

While hearing your child’s speech and language develop can be an amazing and mind-blowing experience, you may also be wondering if she is on track linguistically, worrying if she’ll be ready for kindergarten. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) outlines these milestones as the norm for pre-K children.

                       Hearing and Understanding                                       Talking
3-4 Years 3-4 Years
  • Hears you when you call from another room
  • Talks about activities at school or at friends' homes
  • Hears television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • People outside family usually understand the child's speech.
  • Understands simple "who?", "what?", "where?", "why?" questions.
  • Uses a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words
  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words
4-5 Years 4-5 Years
  • Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about it
  • Child’s voice sounds clear, like other children's
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school.
  • Uses sentences that give many details (e.g. "I like to read my books").
  • Tells stories that stick to topic
  • Communicates easily with other children and adults
  • Says most sounds correctly, except a few such as l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family

So, is your child hitting on all cylinders? Don’t be worried if he has not mastered everything listed here before kindergarten. This chart represents the age by which most children will accomplish these skills. Children typically do not master all items in a category until they reach the upper age in each range, so just because your child in not proficient with one skill for his age does not mean he has a disorder.

However, if you look at this chart and your child doesn’t seem to be on track in most of the areas, you may want to work with an expert to help him. For hearing problems, seek an audiologist; for speech and language problems, consult a speech-language pathologist.

And the next time you’re in the car and your 4-year old says to you, “Slow down or you’ll get a ticket,” disguise your shock and simply marvel at his eloquence, knowing he’s ready to conquer kindergarten. You may want hit the brakes a bit too.  

For more information on the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, check out their website at