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What to expect when

Children develop their communication skills at different stages and ages. However, the pattern of typical development is helpful in giving us a guide to the skills your child is likely to have at various ages.

0-1 year 

By one year you are likely to see your baby starting to pay attention to the strongest stimuli in their environment. 

They will still be easily distracted. 

They may play by exploring toys and objects near to them, often putting them in their mouth. They can understand some words, including their name. 

They are beginning to be interactive and they may show this by smiling at you, waving their arms and legs around, pointing and taking turns with you to make babbling noises.

1-2 years 

Between 1 and 2 years children start to pay attention for slightly longer periods, however, they are usually only focused on things that they like or that interest them. 

Children begin to learn lots more words and by 2 years old they can understand 2 word phrases. They will also be using many single words, and are starting to put 2 words together when talking (e.g. ‘more juice’). 

They are interested in toys now and may engage in pretend play, e.g. pretending to feed a doll.

2-3 years

Between 2 and 3 years children start to be able to shift their attention between two stimuli (e.g. whilst playing, they may stop and look at you if you call them). 

They start understanding action words, basic prepositions, longer sentences (e.g. 3 key words) and simple questions. They seem chatty and can speak in short sentences. 

At this age children are interested in those around them and may watch others playing or play alongside them. Their own play is starting to become more imaginative.

3-4 years

At this age children are learning to pay attention to adult-led activities e.g. listen to a story. 

They can understand a lot more now, including a wider range of questions and descriptive words. They should be able to have a conversation with you and will ask lots of questions themselves. 

They are starting to play with other children and their speech is getting clearer.

4-5 years

At this age your child will start to be able to listen even though they are doing something else. Their play will be more complex now including playing games with their peers and making up rules for their games. 

Children will be able to understand and answer a wider range of questions, including ‘why?’ When they don’t understand something they may ask for help. 

Their choice of words is more specific and meaningful and they are able to link their ideas (e.g. by saying ‘and’). They will also start to retell events.


A child’s intact hearing is a vital foundation skill for developing language skills. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing it is recommended that a hearing test is carried out. Please see your GP to discuss any concerns and request a referral to the Audiology department