Communicating & talking skills

What you need to know:

Communication skills are an essential part of your child's overall development. Your child needs to be able to to hear and understand what is being said to them and then use their verbal language skills to respond. In addition, they will learn to aid their communication using non-verbal skills such as body language, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact.


  Understanding Language development How else are they communicating?
Newborns 0-3 months Your baby can hear you from birth and starts to recognise your voice  Crying when wet, hungry, tired or wants to be held, making cooing noises, making sounds back at you when you talk to your baby  From around 6 weeks your baby will start to smile and this will increase as they are getting older. They will startle to loud noises. 
Babies 3-6 months When placed in front of a mirror, baby will smile and coo at themselves.  Baby will chuckle or laugh. Baby makes sounds when looking at toys or people. Baby will make high pitched squeals. Baby babbles and takes turns with you in a sort of conversation. 

Baby turns their head to sound and settles down when hearing a familiar voice. 

When you are out of baby’s sight they will smile or get excited when they see you. 

Babies 6-9 months

Baby can tell how you are by feeling the tone of your voice and look on your face. 

Baby has a favourite toy. 

Baby will copy different sounds. Baby will also follow simple commands, such as “give it to me” or “put it back”. Baby recognises family members 

Baby starts to vocalise tunefully using different volumes and sounds. Bay copies sounds, facial expressions and gestures. 

Baby starts to vocalise tunefully using different volumes and sounds. Bay copies sounds, facial expressions and gestures. 

Baby starts to show more emotions. Baby will blow raspberries, squeal, growl and put their hands up when they want to be carried. 

Baby will cling onto familiar adults. 

Babies 9- 12months  Baby will point at objects and respond to their name. Baby will hold arms and legs out to get dressed.  Baby is making more meaningful sounds, such as “mama” or “dada”. 

Baby continues to develop gestures and more emotions

Toddlers 1-2 years  Your child can respond to their name and understands “no”. They develop understanding of simple instructions, such as “get your shoes”. They learn new words by listening to adults. .  Babbling starts to include words. Speech may initially be difficult to understand. They are increasing the number of words they can say very quickly, including familiar objects and people, body parts and animal noises. Children enjoy nursery rhymes and try to join in.  Alongside developing language, children at this age use a range of gestures and noises to aid their communication, such as pointing, shaking head, pushing cutlery away, nodding, and making eye contact. 
Toddlers 2-3 years  Children learn a lot of new words by listening to adults. Children use words such as “I”, “mine” “yours” correctly.  Speech is now much clearer. Child can now use 2-3 word sentences.  Children are now starting to learn to take turns in a conversation, and you can have a meaningful chat with them. They like to pretend and role play. They are copying adult conversations in terms of tone throughout the sentence. They also start to frown and wiggle finger at you. 
Preschool 3-4 years  Children understand most things you say and can follow 2-3 steps commands about familiar things, e.g. “go to your bedroom and get your jumper”. Understands and uses correctly words such as “you”, “me” and  “I” By now your child can use 3-5 word sentences and is asking “why” pretty frequently. They know their name, age and different colours. Their speech is much clearer and they can be understood by strangers. They can tell a simple story but might need help to get things in the right order.  Pretend play is very vivid. 
Preschool 4-5 years  Children enjoy jokes and riddles. Child knows their first and last name, and address. Child can sing several nursery rhymes and likes to listen to longer stories. As the child’s imagination develops they will tell made up stories and have imaginary friends. They speak in longer sentences of around 5-6 wordd, and by the tie they reach 5 years they will be talking fluently. Your child’s sense of humour is increasing Children take turns and share. They show sympathy to friends when they re upset. Shows more independence. 


​​​​​Talk with your child about anything and everything. Name objects or people in the surroundings. Count out loud the steps you take, tell them what pieces of clothing you are folding when doing the laundry. Even if you think your child doesn't understand, talking about what is happening in your daily lives will increase the number of words your child hears. Repetition does help. 

Build your child's communication skills by: 

  • noting and commenting on their interest e.g. 'wow, what is that?' 
  •  giving them time to respond back to you e.g. pause whilst looking them in the eye. 
  • actively listening to what they have to say. 
  •  modelling the correct answer, whilst ignoring what was wrong e.g. if they say whilst looking at a bus 'look, bus', you would respond "yes it is a bus" 
  •  building on what they have said e.g. look it's red bus, what else is red? 
  • Sing to them

  •  Start reading to them at an early age. Link the words to the pictures in the book and in your own lives. As they get older, pointing to the words as you say them helps them understand the link between written and spoken words to develop their skills in literacy. 

Click here to watch a short video with more information.

If your child stops doing what they are already able to do, you should seek urgent medical help through your health visitor or GP. 

All children are different when it comes to developing language skills. If you feel there is a difference between your child and another child of a similar age, be reassured that this is normal. However, it is best to seek professional advice if you see any of the following signs: 

When your newborn doesn't: 

·       respond to sudden loud noises e.g. ambulance siren, dog barking, something being dropped with a bang. 

·       turn their heads towards the sound itself. 

·       make sounds or respond to loud noises. 

By 12 months of age if your baby isn't: 

·       turning their heads to soft sounds 

·       trying to communicate with you in a variety of ways using sounds, gestures, eye contacts, and/or words, particularly when needing help or wanting something. 

By 3 years old, if your toddler: 

·       can't understand simple instructions/questions e.g. where's daddy? 

·       isn't saying about 50 words 

·       doesn't use their words and gestures (particularly pointing) to try and interact with you e.g. to tell you what they want or need, waving to indicate that they are saying goodbye. 

·       uses words in unusual manner and out of context, e.g. not being able to link what they are saying with what is actually happening at the time and is copying words/phrases and saying them repeatedly 

·       isn't combining two or more words together e.g. more drink 

·       isn't pointing to objects to share their interest with others by 2 years of age 

By 5 years old, if your child: 

·       isn't combining words to make longer sentences to tell you what they need e.g. I want snack; or is unable to share their interests with you e.g. look, a bus 

·       isn't understanding longer instruction e.g. pick up your cup and put it in the sink 

·       uses words unusually e.g. they may have more words than you can count, but they don't use them to talk to people, or if they have parrot like repetitive speech or if they continue to speak in a made up language that you can't understand 

·       Takes and pulls your hand as a means of getting what they want 

When starting school: 

·       you can't have a chat with them about things which interest them e.g. 'what would you like to have for dinner today?' 'What do you think mummy would like to do for her birthday?'

You should be concerned at any age if your child stops doing what they were previously able to do so.

If you have any concerns about your child’s language and/or communication skills please seek help from your health visitor or GP.

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