Encouraging your under fives to get talking!

Children develop at their own pace but you can encourage communication skills and language development in young children by modelling good skills yourself

Communication can be broken down into 3 main areas: listening & attention, speaking and understanding.   These are the building blocks for your child’s language development.

Listening and Attention:

Listening and attention skills develop from the moment a child is born!  Babies learn to pay attention to objects, in particular the people they see all the time. Children learn to look, listen and focus on what other people are saying and doing. Hearing voices, cooing, sounds helps to develop those vital listening skills….and speech, before they can even speak!

Play and interaction:

Children learn through play and play itself has its own stages of development. Babies start with ‘exploratory play’, which helps them learn different textures, shapes and sizes. This why babies tend to grab things and put them in their mouths. They then go on to ‘functional play’ where they use toys the way they are intended to be used. The last stage is ‘pretend or symbolic play’ where they become creative and realise that an item can be used to represent something else. Play helps children to learn that words are useful and used to describe an item.


Children have to understand words before they can use them. Children can usually understand words even when they can’t yet say or pronounce them.

Expressive language:

Children start by learning to say individual words around the age of 12 months. They gradually begin to string words together until they can create short sentences. Developing a good range of vocabulary and using grammar, even when they don’t yet understand the technicalities helps them to put sentences together and express themselves. Not being able to express themselves is one of the causes of children’s tantrums – they become frustrated. The more language they can develop, the less frustrated they are and this decreases the number of tantrums!

Speech articulation:

Children continue to develop their range of sounds as they get older. Certain sounds can develop later so some children may have difficulty with pronunciation.

Useful tips:

  • Silly songs and actions are not just fun but will help get their attention and can encourage language development.
  • Children need more time than adults to process information. Give them time to respond. A good method to remember this is to count to 5 (under your breath!) after asking them a question.
  • Keep your sentences short and clear: “Time for nursery.”
  • Building on what your child says by adding a word or two, will help your child expand their vocabulary. So, if your child says “Bus!” you say “Yes, big bus!”.
  • Dummies can impair a child’s speech development and pronunciation.
  • If your child makes a mistake, repeat the sentence correctly for them instead of telling them to say it again: “Look, a dod.” – “Yes, look a dog.”

Your local children centre or library may offer drop-in sessions where you and your child can participate in reading, singing and rhymes.

You may find these FREE posters useful too: First Words  and Stages of Development.

Let us know how you’re getting on by joining in the conversation over on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LittleLearnersNurseries/