Language & Communication Development

By J. Lang Wood
Crying Toddler image by Mary Beth Granger from

Communication is the essence of human interaction. When language is used, ideas are shared, and important information is passed between individuals. Humans go from infancy, when their communication is minimal, through a series of developmental steps to language proficiency. Sometimes, children are delayed in acquiring skills in language and communication, and extra training must be given to help them reach more complex levels of human speech.

Stages of Language Development

Child development specialists recognize a number of language development “landmarks” that help define how well a child is acquiring communication skills. When a child stalls at any one of these landmarks, it is a good signal that parents should request a professional evaluation of the child to see if intervention might be helpful. There may be a problem with hearing or a developmental delay.

Infants and Babies

Infants start out with few communication skills. These are primarily simple vocalizations that progressively develop intonations, which become closer and closer to spoken language. The baby turns toward voices, responds to his name, and responds to angry or friendly tones.

Ages 1 to 3 Years

Children’s speech begins with one or two words, then they gradually add words with meaning. The child may often repeat words for practice, and may be able to follow simple commands. As a child’s vocabulary improves, short sentences are put together, and pronouns and prepositions are added. He or she can often answer simple questions.

Ages 4 to 6 Years

At this age, the child knows the names of animals and common objects in books, and demonstrates this knowledge over and over. The child can say colors and bigger/smaller concepts. If asked to repeat longer words, he or she will be able to do so. Most vowels and consonants can be enunciated. Repetition of words is common. The child will be able to tell his age, count to 10, follow three commands said in succession, and understand simple time concepts such as yesterday, today and tomorrow. Sentences will be fairly long and generally grammatically correct.

Ages 7 to 8 Years

At this age, vowels and consonants are mastered. Opposite concepts such as boy-girl, long-short and sweet-sour should be understood. The child should be able to do simple reading and print writing. Compound sentences should be easily used. The child should be able to relate events, even in the past, with fewer lapses in grammar. Good reading skills are established, along with simple composition. Control of rate of speech, pitch and volume has improved. The child should have a good understanding of time and number concepts. Language in ordinary social situations should be used appropriately.