Identify the stages of language and communication development from birth to 7 years

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.5: Develop emergent literacy skills of children
Learning outcome: Understand the language and communication needs of children
Assessment criteria: Identify the stages of language and communication development from birth to 7 years


Language and communication development in Early Years settings can be divided into two main stages.

The pre-linguistic stage is the period in a child’s development prior to the use of words or language. It encompasses infancy from birth until about 15 months old and includes basic forms of communication such as cooing, gurgling, babbling and pointing.


The linguistic stage is the period from 15 months to 7 years old when children are developing their language and communication skills. During this stage, they learn how to use words and sentences as well as understand basic concepts such as cause-and-effect relationships in their environment.

The bullet points below explore some of the expected behaviours and characteristics relating to communication development at different ages.

  • 0 – 6 Months: During this stage, infants learn to make sounds and become more vocal by cooing and gurgling. They may start to recognize familiar voices and cry to express their needs (e.g. hunger, tiredness, distress etc.)
  • 6 – 12 Months: At this age, children begin responding to their own names, identify emotions through tone of voice and start to babble with an increased range of sounds. They will also point at things and use other gestures. As they approach the 1-year mark, they will begin to respond to instructions.
  • 1 – 2 Years Old: Children at this stage have a better understanding of language and are able to use single words and short sentences. They can also respond to questions, understand instructions and communicate their needs and wishes with intent.
  • 2 – 3 Years Old: During this age range, children begin using plurals, pronouns and past tense verbs in their speech. They can string together longer sentences and better understand concepts such as cause-and-effect relationships in the environment.
  • 3 – 4 Years Old: At this age, children expand their vocabulary further and become more proficient with grammar rules, such as when to use conjunctions or articles correctly in sentences.
  • 4 – 6 Years Old: Children at this age become increasingly confident with their language skills allowing them to ask questions, describe events or express opinions more effectively than before.
  • 6 – 8 Years Old: At this stage, children continue refining their language abilities while emphasizing conversations over physical play or activities more often than younger ages do.
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