January 26, 2016
Receptive language development refers to how children develop listening skills and an understanding of the language they are hearing.
Language learning starts at birth. Even new babies are aware of the sounds in the environment. They listen to the speech of those close to them, and startle or cry if there is an unexpected noise. Loud noises wake them, and they become "still" in response to new sounds.
Between 0-3 months babies learn to turn to you when you speak, and smile when they hear your voice. In fact, they seem to recognise your familiar voice, and will quieten at the sound of it if they are crying. Tiny babies under three months will also stop their activity and listen closely to the sound of an unfamiliar voice. They will often respond to comforting tones whether the voice is familiar or not.
Between 4 to 6 months babies respond to the word "no". They are also responsive to changes in your tone of voice, and to sounds other than speech. For example, they can be fascinated by toys and other objects that make sounds, enjoy music and rhythm, and look in an interested or apprehensive way for the source of all sorts of new sounds such as the toaster, birdsong and the whirr of machines.
During the 7 to 12 month timeframe, the baby will listen when spoken to, turns and looks at your face when called by name, and discovers the fun of games like "peep-oh" and "pat-a-cake". They will begin to recognise the names of familiar objects ("Daddy", "car", "eyes", "phone", "key") and begin to respond to requests ("Give it to Granny") and questions ("More juice?").
Now your child points to pictures in a book when you name them, and can point to a few body parts when asked (nose, eyes, tummy). He or she can also follow simple commands ("Push the bus!", "Don't touch; it's hot!") and understand simple questions ("Where's the toy?" "Who likes chocolate?", "What's in your bag?"). Your toddler now likes listening to simple stories and enjoys it when you sing songs or say rhymes. This is a stage in which he or she will want the same story, rhyme or game repeated many times.
By now your toddler will understand two stage commands ("Get your coat and put your shoes on") and understand contrasting concepts or meanings like hot / cold / stop / go / in / on and nice. He or she notices sounds like the telephone or doorbell ringing and may point or become excited, get you to answer, or attempt to answer themselves.
Your three or four year old understands simple "Who?", "What?" and "Where?" questions, and can hear you when you call from another room. This is an age where hearing difficulties may become evident. If you are in doubt about your child's hearing, speak to your GP who will refer you to a clinical audiologist.
Children in this age range enjoy stories and can answer simple questions about them. He or she hears and understands nearly everything that is said (within reason) at home or at pre-school or day care.
Expressive language refers to how children learn to speak and use Language
Newborn babies make sounds that let others know that they are experiencing pleasure or pain.
Your baby smiles at you when you come into view. He or she repeats the same sound a lot and "coos and goos" when content. The baby uses a different cry for different situations to help you differentiate between what they need. For example, one cry says "I'm hungry" and another says "I have a pain".
Gurgling sounds or "vocal play" occur while you are playing with your baby or when they are occupying themselves happily. Babbling really gets going in this age range, and your baby will sometimes sound as though he or she is talking. This speech-like babbling includes many sounds, often these are bilabial (two-lip) sounds e.g. 'p', 'b' and 'm'. They also use different pitches. Your baby can tell you, using sounds or gestures that they want something, or want you to do something. He or she can use very "urgent" noises and facial expressions to spur you into action.
The sound of your baby's babbling changes. This is because it now includes more consonants, as well as long and short vowels. He or she uses speech and/or sounds other than crying to get your attention and hold on to it. Your baby's first words may be spoken (they may not be very clear yet). Examples of typical first words are: "MaMa", "Doggie", "Night Night", "Bye Bye", "No")
Now your baby is accumulating more words as each month passes. He or she will even ask 2-word questions like "Where ball?" "What's that?" "More choc", and combine two words in other ways to make other sentence types ("Birdie go", "No doggie", "More push"). Words are becoming clearer as more initial consonants are used.
Your two or three year old's vocabulary is increasing quickly. He or she seems to have a word for almost everything. Utterances are usually one, two or three words long and family members can usually understand them. Your toddler may ask for, or draw your attention to something by naming it ("Dog") or one of its attributes ("Red!") or by commenting ("Wow!").
Sentences are becoming longer as your child can combine four or more words. He or she talks about things that have happened away from home, and is interested in talking about pre-school, friends, outings and interesting experiences. Speech is usually fluent and clear and people outside of the family can understand what your child is saying most of the time.
Your child speaks clearly and fluently in an easy-to-listen-to voice. He or she can construct long and detailed sentences ("We went to the zoo but we had to come home early because Sally wasn't feeling well". He or she can tell a long, involved imaginative story sticking to the topic, and using "adult-like" grammar. Most sounds are pronounced correctly, though he or she may be lisping as a four year old, or, at five, still have difficulty with "r", "v" and "th".
Your child can communicate easily with familiar adults and with other children. Your child may tell fantastic, dramatic, inventive, "tall stories" and engage strangers in conversation when you are out together.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, please email for free advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, please see our fixed fee assessment which may meet your needs
- Bowen, C. (1998). Ages and Stages Summary: Language Development 0-5 years. Retrieved from http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/ on