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Milestones in Language Development in Early Childhood

Milestones in Language Development in Early Childhood

The first 24 months of a child’s life play a significant role in their overall experience as a human being. Why is language development important in early childhood? Learning effective communication during these formative years is crucial for healthy cognitive, social and emotional growth. 

At The Green Elephant, we recognise the critical value of building young minds. So we’ve developed a series of innovative programs in the form of our Curriculum to help you on your child’s language journey. 

In this blog, we’ll cover the initial stages of language development, common concerns in milestone monitoring, and how to enhance language development in early childhood so your child can thrive as they grow.

Key Factors Influencing Language Development

What is language development in early childhood? A combination of nature and nurture determines our road to speech. Genetics, exposure to language, environment, cognitive abilities and social relations work together to shape your child’s linguistic skills from early childhood to adulthood. 

Recent studies have shown that there may be a connection between genetic changes near the ROBO2 gene and the total number of words spoken by children in their formative years. 

When it comes to nurture, children benefit significantly from exposure to rich and varied adult speech within family dynamics. Whether you’re describing an object or event in detail, conversing with your child is one of the critical predictors of early years language development. 

Unfortunately, children from lower socioeconomic homes may show lower communication skills than children from a more economically comfortable upbringing. Culturally speaking, children exposed to different languages in early life are more likely to become bilingual or multilingual. 

Stages of Language Development in Early Childhood

What are the stages of language development in early childhood? As a parent or caregiver, you play a critical role in your child’s communication journey. Let’s examine the phases and how to support language development in these key years. 

 Pre-linguistic Communication

  • Birth to 4 Months: There will be no recognisable speech during this period, but your baby will find ways to communicate with you. In the first two months, expect reflexive crying sounds when they are uncomfortable or hungry. Babies also begin to make cooing noises as a reaction to your voice during this period. Responding vocally and with a smile is critical to language development and emotional bonding.  
  • 4 to 8 Months: By four months, your baby will start to babble. There’ll be many “ooh” and “aahhh” noises. Children of this age rely on auditory and visual input, so being expressive is key. 
  • 8 to 12 Months: Babbling evolves as your baby learns to combine consonants and vowels. Expect to hear “baba” and similar attempts to form speech sounds. Sometimes, it may sound like your baby is singing as they babble. 

Single Word or Holophrastic Stage 

By this point, children have developed enough language skills to say single words. The words will be simple as your child learns to identify their basic needs. Also, you’ll start to hear object words. Children typically learn “mama” or “dada” during this exciting stage to get the caregiver’s attention. 

Modelling language during playtime is an ideal method to help your child build their speech skills. Children rely on your feedback and vocabulary expansion to develop their language foundation. 

Two-Word Stage

As children reach 18 months, they learn to use two words instead of one by combining words they learned during the holophrastic stage. Instead of saying “mama,” your child may say “thank mama” as their communication skills develop. 

Typically, children start to follow simple grammatical rules during this time. For example, your child may change their pitch at the end of asking a question. While decipherable utterances will exist, your child still possesses a limited vocabulary. They have yet to develop the skill to use function words, such as subject pronouns, auxiliary verbs, and articles. 

You may observe your toddler’s development of syntax at this stage as they start to put together increasingly complex words. They begin to express semantic relations with objects, actions, and entities. You can also expect the formation of commands and questions.

Common Language Development Concerns and Milestones Monitoring

Developmental milestones play a crucial role in measuring your child’s growth and deciding if you need to consider intervention to aid their communication journey. Knowing what to expect and how to support language development in early childhood is critical for any caregiver. 

Identifying Language Development Delays

Sometimes, when children have unusual difficulties understanding or forming words, it might be a language delay. 

Look out for problems with:

  • responding to language
  • understanding words or sentences
  • saying first words or retaining vocabulary
  • forming sentences

Language delays can result from conditions such as autism, hearing loss, deafness or Down syndrome. However, many language delays manifest in the absence of a disorder. 

If your child fails to meet the following milestones at the specified ages, it may be best to seek professional help. 

By 6 Months 

  • makes eye contact
  • looks at you when you call their name
  • turns to look at a discussed object 

By 12 Months

  • plays interactive games with you 
  • attempts to communicate with you using gestures, sounds and words
  • tries to communicate that they want something or need help

By 18 Months

  • saying single words
  • responding to everyday questions like “Can you pass me the ball, please?”

By 24 Months

  • has a vocabulary of 50 different words
  • putting two words together
  • can name common colours
  • responding to everyday questions like “Do you want the ball?”

Language delay is relatively common in your child’s first couple of years. As many as 1 in 6 children in this age bracket can have slowed speech development. However, if you’re still concerned about your child’s communication journey, don’t hesitate to contact your local speech and language therapy service for guidance. 

Monitoring Progress 

A large part of learning how to support language development in early childhood is about celebrating achievements. Progress monitoring is an excellent way to grow your child’s confidence and to build certainty in their language skills. By also identifying delays and seeking professional help if needed, you give your child the best chance to succeed and progress. 

Nurturing Language Development at Home and in the Community

Language development is a two-way process. There are certain things you can do to nurture your child’s progress so that they have a solid foundation on which to build. 

Creating a Language-Rich Environment 

Start by immersing your child in a language-rich world right at home. You can quickly cultivate this environment with the following ideas. 

  • sing songs together
  • label objects in your home by referring to them in conversation
  • listen intently to your child’s stories and ask questions to encourage them to share further details 
  • include your child in social situations so that they can observe how you interact with others and encourage them to join the conversation 
  • enjoy shared meal times together and practise taking turns speaking and listening

The Role of Reading in Language Acquisition 

Reading aloud to your child is a great way to expose them to a wide range of vocabulary. Stories that rhyme can be particularly helpful for teaching language skills and literacy development. Some brilliant age-appropriate books best suited for read-aloud include: 

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr 

Interactive reading techniques can help your child excel on their language development journey. Consider inviting your child to play with objects related to the story, reenacting the text into a drama, and stopping and asking your child questions during storytime. 

Social Interaction and Language Skills 

Social interaction plays a major part in language development in early childhood. You can foster positive communication in various social settings by showing your child how to initiate exchanges, take turns whilst talking, and display appropriate gestures. 

Celebrating the Journey: Language Development Achievements 

Language development is much more than a series of linguistic achievements; it’s your child’s road to empowerment and self-discovery. By nurturing your child’s progress, you help pave the way for their unique language development journey. 

As leading experts in early childhood education here at The Green Elephant, we genuinely understand the importance of a holistic approach to language development. Get in touch or book a tour today to discover how we can enrich and support your child’s communication journey.