The Natural Progression of Your Child's Communication - FamilyEducation

The Natural Progression of Your Child's Communication

Find out how your child's communication with you will change over time, from birth to age 17.

In This Article:

Ages 0-5

Your child is capable of communicating his basic needs right from day one. As time marches on, he gradually learns more about communicating his wants and needs to you and others. This is the natural progress of communication.

Birth to Age Two

Most newborn to three-month-old babies can distinguish between pitch and volume of sound. Cooing and making soft noises will get your newborn's attention and help her feel secure. You can never talk too much to children in this age group. As they begin to notice the different things that you are doing, verbalize the actions. "Let's change your diaper" and "Mommy is turning out the light" may seem silly to say to a baby, but she loves to hear the sound of your voice. She will communicate with you by her actions—crying, smiling, and babbling. As infants come close to the age of one, they will be able to imitate expressions, associate simple gestures with words such as waving and saying hi, and respond to a firm "no."

When your child gets closer to the age of two, she may begin to think that her name is "no," and you may also think that it is the only word left in your vocabulary. That's perfectly normal. Children in this age range can say six to twenty words, but they understand many more. They start learning simple phrases and respond correctly to simple questions, such as "What?"

Ages Three to Five

Between the ages of three and five, quite a bit of language development occurs. Children go from joining similar words to make phrases to being able to retell a story. At age three, your child will be able to follow a series of two to four related directions, and he will be able to sing a song and repeat a line or two of his favorite story.


About 5 percent of school-age children have speech and language disorders, including voice disorders and stuttering. These disorders are handled through speech therapy often provided by the public school system.

At the ages of four and five, your child will be able to retell a story, but she may confuse the order. She will combine different thoughts into one sentence, listen to long stories, and be able to follow a more complex set of directions. She will be able to use "because" and "so" casually in a conversation and begin to use words like "might," "should," and "can."