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Communication development from birth to 7 years old

The stages of language and communication development from birth to 7 years

According to Tassoni, the process of learning how to talk is quite slow. The babies, in their first year, can understand a couple of words and not be able to talk. This phase is called pre-linguistic.

It is aspects related to speech gesticulations, making adequate eye contact, cooing, babbling, and crying.

Cooing happens between 6 weeks to 6 months old. Babies cry to express their needs and start to make cooing sounds about 6 weeks old. Cooing means soft sounds in response to being cuddled or during feeding.

Babbling (6 to 9 months), babies mix vowels and consonants to make sounds, examples: da; ba. Babbling (9 to 12 months), babies start with echolalia, which means they start to repeat sounds and their words started being longer, for example bababa; dadada.

It usually takes over 3 years for a child to pronounce all the English sounds and over 4 years for a child to be considered a fluent speaker, with good pronunciation and grammatically adequate. It is a linguistic phase.

Habitually the first words show around 12 months. Currently, babies repeat words that have meaning for them. Children from 12 to 18 months are holophrases, which means, they start using a word in many ways. From 18 to 24 months children start a telegraphic speech, which means the words started putting together and they start with small sentences.

A huge increase in children’s vocabulary joint with the growing use of sentences starting from 24 to 36 months. 3 to 4 years old, children's sentences become longer, and vocabulary continues to increase.

The basic skills of the language are detected from 4 to 6 years old, in this stage we can say the children are fluent in the language. The children reach speech maturity between 6 to 8 years old.

Factors which affect language and communication needs

Relationship, “When children have a strong relationship with an adult, they are more likely to want to communicate and talk (…) Learning to talk is the first step in learning to read. It is important to identify factors that can affect language and communication in the early years. Some of these factors. The link between relationships and language is one reason why most parents are very good at encouraging their children’s speech.”

The quality and plenty of time are also important to develop language and communication skills. Babies need a lot of adult interaction because they need to listen to the sounds of the language and encouragement. Toddlers and older children need less interaction with adults than babies, however, they need sufficient time, because they need to develop vocabulary and fluency.

It is also important to pay attention to background noise, TV, radio, etc. Too much background noise appears to inhibit children’s wish to talk.

Screen time should be limited to 2 hours a day. Communication is two ways process and the watching TV process is inexistent. According to Tassoni, children who spend too much time watching TV have a speech and language delay.

The speech process is listening and talking, when children have a hearing loss this process is more complicated, and their speech is compromised. Hearing loss could be a senso-neural reason, it means it is permanent hearing loss and is typically recognised in the first months. The child can wear a hearing aid or has a cochlear implant. Another reason for hearing loss could be conductive. Conductive hearing loss is more common than senso-neural. Conductive “glue ear is caused by fluid building up in Eustachian tube, which runs from the outer ear to the inner ear”.

Working with others supports children’s emergent literacy from birth to 7 years

There are many ways to support literacy in children since the beginning.

Parents can help to develop children’s speech and language. Children feel more comfortable talking with their parents and the communication progress can be smooth.

Professional speech and language therapists and occupational therapists have an important role.

Speech therapists help children who are not making projected progress in their language, the reason could be difficulty in pronunciation or hearing certain letter sounds.

Occupational therapists can help children with their physical development, helping to grow fine and gross motor skills, improve coordination, or anything that needs to be physically developing to access literacy.

Strategies to support the development of emergent literacy in relation to current framework

According to Tassoni, EYFS doesn’t give specific strategies about developing literacy, however, it gave a lot of strategies to help with.

Strategies to develop emergent literacy (adult encourage children):

  • Display photography, words, and label in front of children (modelling of writing);

  • Write down what the children want to say about a picture or something (scribing);

  • Create activities for children to make marks, like paintbrushes and water, tray with shaving form (Mark-making opportunities);

  • Create opportunities for to children use a pen, pencil, etc. (Writing tables);

  • Use equipment that will help children develop hand movements, for example, pincer grasp (Hand movements);

  • Games as “I spy”, ask children to find an object that starts with a particular speech sound (Sounds game);

  • Sing some nursery rhymes, the children will start learning rhymes (Nursery rhymes);

  • Create bags with books and some props inside (Story sacks);

  • Sharing books with children, reading to them (Sharing books).

The use of systematic phonics in the teaching of reading

Synthetic Phonics is a method of teaching reading. Children are educated to read letters by saying the letters sounds.

“The current approach used to teach children to read in England is known as phonics (…) Synthetic phonics teaches children to look at each letter or group of letters separately and to blend or “synthesise” them together (…) most phonics teaching begins in the reception year and carries on into Year 1”.

The early years practitioner provides opportunities for sustained shared thinking to support children’s emergent literacy

Sustained shared thinking is the method of talking to a child about a topic or problem. “Sustained shared thinking is also used when listening to children read once they are in school”.

There are many ways to sustain shared thinking, one of the ways is sharing books with children. Adults should talk with children about the story and ask questions as “what do you think will happen next?”.

Supporting mark-making is also an opportunity to sustain shared thinking because adults can talk about their marks with children.

When children are at school and are learning to read, an adult can ask children to read some book and talk about the meaning of some words.


TASSONI, Penny. Early Years Educator – for the work-based leaner – cache level 3.

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