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Five-year-old speech, language & reading milestones

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Well here we are, you have a kindergartener (or soon-to-be)! Your little one is five years old and is getting ready to enter their first year of formal school. Amazing, but for many parents also terrifying. It can be so scary to send your little person to a place where we can’t help them know what to do all the time, or help other people understand them. It is especially hard if you know your child is behind on some skills, but are not sure if they might need more help in the classroom or are ready for school at all.

Skills in kindergarten vary a lot, and schools are filled with many experts (including speech-language pathologists/speech therapists!) who can help you know what your child needs to be successful. If you’re wondering if your child is ready for kindergarten, plan to have an in depth conversation with your school’s administrators. It can also be helpful to review the following milestones to know what your child should be able to do by kindergarten. Milestones are skills that 90% of children are able to accomplish at a given age, and missing them is often a sign that children could use some extra support!

5 year old Milestones for Understanding

Your child should now be able to understand time related words like “today, yesterday, tomorrow”, as well as words for steps in a process, like “first, next, last”. With these words, your child can now answer “when” questions. They also should be able to answer “how many” questions when the answer is less than 5. By kindergarten, most children can correctly answer questions when you use comparative words (e.g., “Which is one is bigger? …fastest? …taller? etc.). Most children are also able to understand more describing words, like ‘thin, near, through, different, whole’.

5 year old Milestones for Talking

My personal favourite kindergarten milestone is that children start to use the word ‘because’. I LOVE the word ‘because’, and the little sentences kids come up with! By kindergarten your child’s sentences are usually over 4-5 words, and they should be sounding like a little adult. Grammatical errors are not common in kindergarten, so if you hear your child missing little words like ‘is’, ‘the’, ‘has’, etc., or missing prefixes and suffixes (like the “s” in ‘drinks’) they might benefit from seeing a speech therapist. I also want to emphasize that your child should be able to talk about ideas and events that are imaginary or in the past or future, usually through telling you little stories that make sense. This skill is important so they can follow lessons and have conversations at school!

5 year old Milestones for Speech

A couple speech sound errors are still normal in kindergarten, but even strangers should be able to understand almost everything your child says anyways. Your child might still have trouble saying “R” and “TH” sounds, but otherwise they can use the rest of their sounds. Your child should be able to come up with words that rhyme all on their own, as well as be able to match words that start with the same sound together. They also will start to be able to blend syllables together to make words, like knowing when you say “FAR” + “MER” that it can be combined into “FARMER”.

5 year old Milestones for Social Skills

Now that your child is going to be part of a classroom, social development becomes one of the most important milestones to watch! To function well, kindergarteners need to be able to use words to solve conflicts with peers and provide explanations for what they want or need. Social children will also use words to invite others to play, as well as to join in with others. Children at this age also will start to talk about what they imagine for the future, saying things like “I wish..”, “I hope…” or “What if…”.

5 year old Milestones for Reading

Welcome to the years of literacy! School will really help build your child’s reading and writing, but what should they be able to do going in? Before kindergarten, I like to make sure kids are able to understand a story sequence, and can retell a few events in order when they look back at the book. I also would expect that they know the purpose of print, and many of their letter names. Children’s writing should look different that their drawing, with more “letter-like” shapes than scribbles.

How to see if your child is meeting their milestones

In order to see if your child is meeting their milestones, try some of these activities with your little one!

  • Narrate your actions using sentences starting with “first, next, last”. The ask your child if they can do the same

  • Record a video of your little one playing and going about their day! Watch it together later, and get your child to tell you a “story” and see if they can sequence it using time related words.

  • Talk about what things you hope or wish will happen in the future, and see if your little one can do the same

  • If your little one knows ‘because’… You’ll probably know. Children who know because tend to use it to explain the reasoning in their little heads pretty often!

  • Listen to see if your child is missing any of the little words in their sentences, or any prefixes and suffixes. They should really start to sound like a little adult now

  • Play games with sounds! Give your child a list of 3 words and see if they can match ones that rhyme or that start with the same sound. You could also try seeing if they can guess the word when you have broken it up into individual sounds or syllables.

  • Keep encouraging your child to talk during book reading, practice “writing” (even if it is just lines), and have fun talking and learning together!

If you have any thoughts or questions, please head over to @chattytherapy on Instagram and send me a DM! I’d love to hear if this was great, areas I can improve, or answer any additional questions you might have about milestones.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you and hope to see you soon!


Chatty Therapy has wonderful speech-language pathologists who can give you more specific ideas on how to work with your child and tailor it to your daily routine. Or we can come into your home to help your child learn the concepts they need. Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping children understand others and express themselves better. If you are worried about your child’s speech, language or feeding abilities, learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute consultation. It may be helpful for us to do an assessment to identify specific areas that your child could use more support with.


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