While most children have a large vocabulary—about 13,000 words—at
age 6, they have limited ability to understand complicated language structures.
From ages 6 to 10, children gradually begin to think in more complex ways. This
growth helps them understand and use the nuances and subtleties of
Children gradually advance from understanding simple sentences to
being able to interpret complicated content within a paragraph. And they advance from
writing a few words at a time to composing complex stories and reports. But
this age group's language skills are still limited by concrete, "here and now"
thinking. Although school-age children understand more than they can express,
they do not comprehend a lot of what adults discuss with them. Ask your child
to repeat back what you have said. This will give you a sense of how much he or
Before age 9, most children understand language very literally. They
are confused by statements like, "She is as cool as a cucumber" and may think
it means a person is very cold to the touch or somehow looks like a cucumber.
Around age 10, children develop an understanding of multiple meanings and
relationships between words. They start to make sense of a metaphor like "Lila
is a real firecracker."
Children who have well-developed language skills tend to have better
memories and attention spans. This makes learning easier for them, and children
who are successful in school tend to develop a healthy self-esteem. Also, children who have good language skills often make friends more easily
than children who have trouble expressing themselves with words.
May 14, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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