Young children must learn to understand spoken language in order to develop their use of language. Often young children’s understanding of language is better than their spoken language. A good understanding of spoken language is crucial for a child’s communication development.
As children’s communication skills increase, their vocabulary comprehension develops rapidly and they can understand a wide range of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. They can also follow longer and more grammatically complex instructions, e.g. ‘Before you finish off your newspaper article about the science exhibition, you need to make sure your name is on the list for the school trip’.
Around the age of 7, children develop their inferential skills (their ability to ‘read between the lines’ and infer information that is implied but not explicitly stated). They use these inferential skills to make predictions, work out how people are feeling, and answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.
Babies use contextual clues to understand familiar gestures, words and sounds. They observe and respond to facial expressions. They are learning to stop and look when they hear their own name. They are learning to recognise the voices of familiar adults.
NB. Babies can show they recognise people or objects by getting excited and kicking or moving their arms rapidly.
Children of this age are developing their ability to follow other people’s gestures and pointing.
They are often able to respond to things being said when in a familiar context and with a special person, e.g., ‘where’s Mummy?’, ‘where’s your ear?’. An understanding of single words in context is developing, e.g., ‘cup’, ‘milk’, ‘daddy’.
Children of this age select familiar objects by name and will go and find objects when asked or identify objects from a group. They are able to understand simple phrases (e.g. ‘coat on’, ‘bath time’) but also rely on gestures, pointing and everyday routines to support their understanding. They are beginning to follow instructions containing 2 key pieces of information, (e.g. give me the cup and the ball, where’s big teddy). A child at this stage is beginning understanding language at a two word level.
Children of this age will be more consistent at following instructions containing 2 key pieces of information, (e.g. give me the cup and the ball, where’s big teddy). They are said to be at the ‘two word level’. Children of this age are able to identify action words by pointing to the right picture, e.g., ‘who’s jumping?’
Children of this age are beginning to understand ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ in simple questions and are developing an understanding of simple concepts such as big/little.
Children of this age are also able to understand more complex sentences and follow instructions containing three key pieces of information (e.g. ‘put the big apple on the blue plate’, where there are big and little fruit and two different coloured plates). A child at this stage is said to be understanding language at a three word level.
Children of this age are beginning to understand instructions containing 4 key pieces of information (e.g. ‘drive the big green tractor to the farm’, where there are different sized and coloured vehicles, and a range of locations). Children will be starting to understand prepositions ‘under’, ‘on’, ‘top’, and will be able to answer simple ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ questions. They will be starting to understand concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘different’. Children at this age rely less on clues from the context or environment to support their understanding.
Your child is able to:
Your child is able to:
At this age, comprehension skills are becoming more sophisticated.
At this age, your child can also notice and may comment on not only what is said but how it is said (they begin to appreciate sarcasm when it’s obvious!)
Your child can also understand different question types:
Your child will understand and enjoy simple jokes and recognise simple idioms, but can’t really explain why they’re funny or what they mean.
Your child will be able to:
By now your child will be able to process large amounts of new and complex spoken information.
Last updated: 17 April, 2018
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