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About language and communication

All children need language and communication skills in order to make sense of the world around them, to build relationships with other people and be understood by them.

Language and communication skills are:

  • Receptive: what we understand from others.
  • Expressive: what we want others to understand.


Language is a way to share information using:

  • words
  • phrases
  • grammar.

For children to develop a language well, they need to be surrounded by capable users of that language. During their first year, babies will understand a lot of what is said to them, but will be able to say very little. Their receptive language abilities develop much faster than their expressive ones.


Communication is how we share and exchange information, ideas and feelings with other people. It is a two-way process and involves not only what we say or sign, but other things like:

  • eye contact
  • gesture
  • tone of voice
  • facial expressions
  • body language.

Communication begins from birth, long before first words, with cries, then coos and smiles.

It is important to establish which communication methods best suit your child so they can express their feelings and emotions and build connections and relationships with family, friends and their wider community.

Learn more about how to help your child develop language and communication skills from an early age, support speaking and listening skills and how to use sign language to communicate.