By age 3, most children have developed an active vocabulary of around 300 words or more and can form sentences with 3-4 words. They are also able to understand and follow simple instructions and can communicate their basic needs and wants effectively. Their speech may still be somewhat difficult to understand for unfamiliar listeners, but they are able to make themselves understood by those who are familiar with their speech patterns.
In terms of grammar, 3-year-olds are still learning the rules of language and may make errors in sentence structure or verb tense. For example, they may say "I goed to the store" instead of "I went to the store". However, their grammar skills continue to develop rapidly as they continue to learn and practice language.
In addition, they're still learning to use pronouns and may struggle with the concept of "I," "me," and "you" since these terms change depending on who is speaking. Because of how confusing this concept is, they may speak in 3rd person. For example, they may say, "Tommy hungry," instead of, "I am hungry." The same goes for when they are speaking about you. They may say, "Mommy sing," instead of, "Can you sing for me?" This is perfectly normal. Simply model the correct way of saying it and they will grasp the concept eventually.
At this age, children also begin to engage in more complex conversations and may ask a lot of questions. One question you are sure to hear often is, "What's that?" They are curious about the world around them and are eager to learn more about it. They're also building their vocabulary in this way! Be sure to humor them and answer their seemingly constant barrage of questions. We promise you will see the benefits!
When your child speaks in short sentences of a few words, it's helpful to stretch their sentences to model both proper grammar and to expand their vocabulary. If they say "cat" you can say, "Yes, I can hear the cat meowing, too."
In terms of pronunciation, 3-year-olds may still struggle with some sounds, particularly those that require more complex tongue and mouth movements. For example, they may have difficulty with the "r" sound or the "th" sound. However, they are typically able to produce most sounds correctly and are able to be understood by others. When they're about 3-and-a-half, you'll start to hear them use the sounds for h, w, b, p, and m with more skill.
Overall, a 3-year-old's language skills are developing rapidly and they are able to communicate effectively with those around them. It is important to continue to encourage and support their language development through reading, talking, and engaging in conversation with them. By doing so, they will continue to build on their language skills and develop into strong communicators as they grow older.