3 Years

Does your 3-year old

  • understand “who”, “what”, “where” and “why” questions?
  • talk in long sentences, using 5 or more words?
  • talk about things that happened in the past – trip to grandparents’ house, a day at childcare?
  • tell simple stories?
  • show affection for favourite playmates?
  • come up with pretend play ideas that have several steps – cooking a meal, repairing a car?
  • your child’s speech can be understood by most people outside of the family, most of the time?
  • have an awareness of what print can be used for – in menus, lists, signs?
  • have a beginning interest in, and awareness of, rhyming


If your child does not do one or several of the above, we can help!

Complete the First Words Communication Checkup or contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or 613-PARENTS for more information.

Renfrew county families may call our Intake Office at 613-732-7007, ext. 5905 or 1-888-421-2222.



Also, look out for any of these red flags:

  • Limited eye gaze and/or limited shared interest in others
  • Repeats exactly what you say instead of responding to questions or comments
  • Lack of interest in or contact with other children of the same age when playing
  • Does not look at you when listening or speaking
  • Makes noises or uses gestures to show needs instead of using words or sentences
  • Repetitive  play or movement behaviours
  • Limited sequenced pretend play
  • Any loss of any social and/or language skills


If you have noticed any of these red flags, your child may be dealing with a developmental issue as well as a language delay and will need more support.  An immediate referral to the Children’s Treatment Centre (CTC) for a developmental assessment might be required. Contact the CHEO Access Team at 613-737-2757.


Here are a few quick strategies to help your 3-year old learn to communicate:

  • Ask your child questions about things they find interesting.
  • Model correct sounds and grammar for your child.
  • Sing songs that end with rhyming words.  Talk about how the words sound the same.
  • Read stories that have repetition and ask your child to predict what is going to happen.  Good books are “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” and “Going On A Bear Hunt.”
  • Pretend with your child by acting out scenes from favourite stories.  Pretend that we are going on a trip to the doctor’s office or to the moon!
  • Check out our “Strategies” and “Learning Tools” sections for other strategies and resources!