Speech and Language skills in School Aged Children (5 to 9 year olds)

February 19, 2018


Many of my previous Motherburg posts have been geared towards speech + language development of infants and toddlers. There are many milestone charts for those little ones. But after 5 years of age, fewer public guidelines exist even though development is ongoing. This post will focus on skills for slightly older kids.

Once your children have moved beyond music classes, play groups and early movement classes, they will head to school at some point. Here are some speech and language skills to look out for as children advance from using language for curiosity + to play to using language to gain knowledge, interact and tell stories.

5 – 6 year olds

speech skills: the majority of speech sounds should be mastered by now – individually and in blends (p in pig and play). Remaining errors may exist on r, s, l (should be close to mastery by 6 years)

language skills: kids this age are learning 5 – 10 new vocabulary words a day. A portion of this learning is from reading daily with your children. Another portion of gaining knowledge is through social interactions and life experiences.  At 6 years of age, receptive vocabularies can range from 2,600 to 7,000 words.

Grammar should be developing as well via: sentences 5 or more words in length, conjunctions (and, so, but, because), time concepts (today, tomorrow, next week) and a variety of questions should be being both asked + answered (where, when, why, which one)

narrative skills: kids should be telling stories throughout their day. This can range from recalling personal experiences (waiting for the bus) to retelling events from a book or video. Children should understand basic parts of a story (who, where, what happened, how did it end) and  recall important details (names of characters, some actions that happened, locations where stories took place).


7-9 year olds

speech skills:  by 7 most kids have mastered later learned sounds: ch, sh, j and voiceless th (think, both). By 8 these sounds should be mastered too: s, z, v, zh (as in measure, treasure), voiced th (mother, that). If speech errors persist, they likely will not resolve without intervention at this age.

language skills:  kids’ vocabulary by 7 should include many accurate time concepts (last month, in 2 weeks) and an array of spatial terms (in, around, below, above).

Language should be easily used to negotiate, bargain, compare and describe. Their sentences should be more complex and metacognitive and metalinguistic language should be frequently heard (I think that, He said that she wanted, What do you believe?)

narrative skills: kids’ stories should advance verbally and in their writing.  Time elements should be included (after that, one day, while he was at the store). Stories should contain a sequence (problem, multiple attempts to solve a problem), elaborate details  (characters’ thoughts + feelings) and adequate information to be clearly understood by most listeners. 

At this age, if you have concerns about your child’s speech or language skills, it is best to begin this conversation with your child’s classroom teachers. Discuss your concerns. They can guide you to next steps if they are struggling in any way in school.  Speech and language skills directly impact social interactions and academic growth. School age children will thrive when they are best able to understand, express their complex needs, wants and ideas + successfully interact with peers.


Although maybe not be as dramatic as those first few words,  the growth of speech and language skills into the school age years is fascinating to watch and hear in children 5 years old and up.

Thank you as always for reading. Till the next post, take care.

Vanessa D’Auria is a licensed speech-language pathologist of D’Auria Speech Inc, providing home-based services in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. For more information about Vanessa, visit speechtherapyvanessadauria.com or to ask speech/language questions, email directly atspeechtherapynyc@gmail.com.

Post photo: Ryan Bruce

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