Just like skills and milestones vary from kid to kid, language and talking also fall in that variation. Generally, children start speaking 1-2 words from the age of 1 or even before, and by the age of 4, they can talk in sentences that are quite easy to understand, even by strangers.
In some cases, some 4-year-olds do not talk in sentences due to several reasons. I understand, as a parent, it might put you under stress why your child isn’t able to speak in sentences yet.
Give this blog a read to know why your 4-year-old isn’t talking in sentences and what to do to improve his language and speaking skills.
Is it normal for a 4-year-old not to talk in sentences?
Every child is different and learns at a different pace. But almost all kids with normal speech development can talk in sentences at age 4, so it is not normal.
However, it is not necessary that there is any problem.
Check if your 4-year-old can’t talk in sentences (despite trying) or if he doesn’t want to?
Some kids still act like a baby even though they are older now. Parents should discourage talking like a child every time the child does it and tell him that they cannot understand what he wants to say.
Why would a 4-year-old not talk in sentences?
So, a 4-year-old should talk in complete sentences. However, if your child is not doing so at this age, what could be the reason? Let’s explore:
1- Elders around him do not talk to him in sentences.
There is a possibility that your 4-year-old child does not talk in sentences because the elders around him still consider him a baby and talk to him like a baby. Due to the lack of vocabulary and practice of speaking in sentences, your 4-year-old still talks like a baby.
2- The child likes acting like a baby.
Sometimes children of such age still like to act like a baby to catch the attention of their elders. His elders also do not ask him to speak correctly; instead, they find it cute and reply in the same pattern as his.
3- He doesn’t feel the need to talk in complete sentences.
When the child gets no discouragement upon talking like a baby or no one corrects him, and he continues to speak in two-three words, he would find it normal and don’t feel like speaking in complete sentences. So, for example, if he wanted to go to the washroom, he would just say “washroom” instead of saying, “I want to go to the washroom.”
4- He may have DELD.
DELD (Developmental expressive language disorder) is when a child has difficulty remembering the vocabulary words from which he makes a complete sentence. In this disorder, the child may speak in two-three words instead of a complete sentence.
They might find it even harder to answer any question in the right words if they have DELD.So if your 4-year-old is still speaking in two-three words, check him up with the doctor.
5- He may have other conditions.
The delay in talking in sentences in the case of a 4-year-old might be because of the following conditions.
Not all children with autism face the problem of not talking in sentences, but due to autism, they may have difficulty communicating. Due to less communication, the child does not have much vocabulary to express what he wants to say.
- Hearing Impairment:
A child with difficulty hearing would definitely have language impairment too. When he cannot hear the language properly, he won’t learn it and hence faces difficulty communicating in sentences.
- Ear infection:
Sometimes kids suffer chronic ear infections that affect their hearing. But it is rare to have infections in both ears, so even if the child has normal hearing from his one ear, the communication won’t be affected as much.
- Language delay:
When a child has a language delay, he cannot meet the language milestone of his age; hence it gets harder for him to express himself and even understand the other person. Language delay can happen because of hearing impairment, autism , or oral impairments.
- Oral impairments:
Oral impairments refer to problems with the tongue or palate, which is the roof of the mouth. Due to such impairments, a child does not have clear speech and difficulty sending a message across.
- Short frenulum:
The short frenulum is also a condition related to the tongue where a fold is under it, which does not allow it to move correctly. Due to such limitations, the child cannot pronounce words correctly and tries to talk in two to three words.
What to do if a 4-year-old doesn’t talk in sentences?
Here are a few things to do to help your little one talk in full sentences (remember, visiting a doctor is crucial):
1- Check his exposure to the language:
Double-check your 4-year-old’s exposure to the language and how other people talk to him. For example, if you have a little child at home who talks like a baby, then there is a possibility that your 4-year-old is trying to copy him.
2- Check his other developmental milestones:
You must be alert since he is growing to see whether he is achieving his other milestone on time or just a little delayed. Look at the developmental milestones, like participating in age-appropriate activities and learning things correctly.
3- Check how he responds to your instructions:
If your 4-year-old isn’t talking in sentences, check if he can follow your 1 or 2-lined instructions and how he responds to them. For example, instructions like “ Take out your night Pjs, go to the washroom, and brush your teeth.” See if he can follow the instruction in sequence or do not follow it correctly.
4- Check if there are any certain words he cannot use:
Check if there are certain types of words that he can’t use, for example, if he can’t speak in a complete sentence when the sentence is complex. It can be the use of words like “when,” “because,” “but,” etc. see if he has difficulty joining the sentences with these words.
But If your 4-year-old is able to talk in sentences but is unable to speak in complex sentences, like using the linking words “because”, “when”, “and”, etc., than you can take a sigh of relief and give him a few more months to start using linking words.
5- Check if he does not talk in sentences occasionally or regularly:
Another important point to consider is whether your 4-year-old isn’t talking in sentences as a routine or if he can sometimes speak properly. If so, he does it to attain his elders’ attention or try copying someone around him.
6- See a pediatrician after noticing the above points.
See a pediatrician after you check everything mentioned above. You must see a doctor and discuss it with him. Mention all the points you noticed, and the pediatrician might refer you to the related specialist, for example, an ENT specialist, to check the hearing.
7- See a speech therapist is a good idea.
Seeing a speech therapist would bring a lot of benefits to the child. With the therapy, the child will be able to enhance his conversational skills, which seems complicated. After meeting the speech therapist, he will give you a session plan to polish your child’s ability to share thoughts, ideas, and feelings using complete sentences.
8- Practice talking in complete sentences at home:
Practice speaking full sentences with your child; for example, when you say, “Look how beautiful the butterfly is?” and the child replies, “Yes, it is so beautiful, ask him to say a complete sentence like,” Can you say that the butterfly is so beautiful?”. Always encourage the child to answer in complete sentences. Enhance his communication skills by practicing a lot at home.
9- Read with your child and ask him to participate.
Reading is the best way to introduce your child to sentences. Get him some age-appropriate books that have simple and joining sentences. Read the stories where the characters are talking to each other. This would definitely help your child speak in sentences.
10- Talk to him about everyday situations.
Indulge your 4-year-old child in daily conversations. For example, when he returns from school, ask him “how his day was,” “what he learned new today,” “whether there was any kid who has upset today,” etc. This way, the child will try to explain what happened all day.
11- Pay attention when they speak and get their attention when you talk to them.
Children who do not speak in sentences need attention from their parents. The parents should turn around and hear what the child is saying so that if there is a need for correction, it can be done then and there.
Also, when you communicate with your child, get their attention and speak. He can learn how to talk in sentences when he listens to the conversation.
12- Keep adding new words to the speech or use synonyms.
Keep helping your child learn new words. Say a new word, and tell them what it means, or use it in a way that allows them to understand. For example, you can use the word “vehicle” instead of “car.” You can say, “I think I will drive the vehicle to the store. I am too tired to walk.”
13- Play “describe and guess” with the child.
Play games with your child, such as “Pretending to be a parent.” Let them be the parent, and you pretend to be the child. Ask him to give you instructions like you do and answer him in complete sentences.
14- Watch movies together and discuss his favorite character.
Watch movies together. Talk about what your child is watching. Allow him to guess what might happen next. Talk about his favorite characters. Ask him to tell you which part of the movie he liked the most. Then, act out a scene together, or make up a different ending.
It is not normal for a 4-year-old child not to talk in sentences. First, check if your little one can’t talk in sentences or if he doesn’t want to. Talk to him in full sentences and encourage him to talk.
It is crucial to visit a doctor.