Communication and Language



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Key to development, this area impacts on every aspect of learning, included with our registration pack are two documents from the excellent ‘Let’s Talk’ programme, supported by ‘I CAN’, full of excellent information and handy tips to support young children with language and communication.

Children will be introduced to a wide range of stories, songs, poems, and nursery rhymes. They will be encouraged to join in and listen for rhyme and respond to questions. The puppets will be used to tell stories and the role-play area will be regularly transformed to encourage imaginative play, co-operation and to extend language.

In the Revised Early Years Foundation Stage, Communication and Language is broken down into three aspects:

  • Listening and Attention
  • Understanding
  • Speaking

Communicating seems to be an in-built drive and the ways we communicate rely as much on non-verbal means as on spoken communication, this underpins the settings approach to this area.

Communication and Language (CL) is one of the three prime areas of learning and development in the EYFS framework. The other two are Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) and Physical Development (PD). These areas are called prime because they form the foundation for all other aspects of young children’s learning and development. As soon as they are born, young babies begin to communicate with other people – start to build relationships with their immediate family and care givers and interact physically with the world around them. The three prime areas of learning are regarded as particularly important for engaging young children’s curiosity and enthusiasm, laying the foundations of success in learning and in life.

Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to speak and listen in a range of situations, and to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves.

By focusing on listening and attention, and separating receptive language (understanding) from expressive language (speaking), practitioners can gain a better understanding of how language develops, how to support the process, and how to identify children who could be at risk from language delay.

Prime and specific areas of learning

The three prime areas of the EYFS should be the focus for practitioners working with the youngest children, as they form the basis for successful learning and progress in the four specific areas.

As children become older, the emphasis will shift towards a more equal focus on all areas of learning as children’s confidence and abilities increase.

If at any time a child’s progress within any of the prime areas gives cause for concern, practitioners should discuss this with the child’s parents and provide focused support in that area. This approach is designed to ensure that any issues are addressed at an early stage of a child’s life.

The importance of developing understanding

Understanding covers part of the aspect of the original EYFS framework called ‘Language for Thinking’ with the change in emphasis in the new framework building on research findings from the ECAT programme.

Understanding, or developing comprehension, is a fundamental part of interpreting spoken language. It is important that practitioners can distinguish between situations where a child may be following an established routine, or responding to gestures rather than understanding the spoken word.

As children develop their understanding and build up a large receptive vocabulary they become more able to make sense of complex sentences and questions. These skills are essential for reading comprehension and for making sense of information in all other areas of learning


As children’s vocabulary and use of spoken language increases practitioners play alongside children, commentating on what they are doing, but not bombarding them with too many questions. To build children’s understanding of the spoken word they use simple language, emphasise key words and information, and repeat words and phrases often. When they are talking to particular children they gain their attention first by calling their name and looking directly at them.

In the room there are lots of interesting things for the children to play with – puzzles and manipulative toys, building blocks, small world play resources, a water and sand area, hats and costumes, bags and shoes for role play, and a good supply of books. Practitioners are aware that different children are interested in different things and take time to have conversations with children in a variety of play situations. They talk with the children about what they are doing and use open ended questions such as, ‘How do you think we could…’, ‘Can you show me how to…’, ‘What might happen if…’.

Practitioners give regular support to children who struggle to understand, acknowledging their efforts, adapting the language they use, and modelling correct sentences. There are visual signs and symbols around the room and the storage boxes are all labelled with pictures of what should be in there.

Favourite stories are read again and again and the children love saying what is going to happen next in a story.

These are good opportunities for the practitioner to challenge the children’s thinking and understanding by asking simple questions such as, ‘ What happens next?’ and ‘Why do you think that?’.

The wide variety of resources in the room gives children lots of opportunities to make choices and follow their interests. Children can choose whether they play indoors or out of doors but are expected to observe the simple rules the children and practitioners have devised to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. Talking about these rules – which happens quite frequently – is a great opportunity to develop children’s understanding as they discuss the consequences of things not being done correctly.

When giving children instructions, practitioners are careful to make sure they tell children what they want them to do, not what they don’t want them to do. This has gone a long way to avoiding misunderstandings, particularly for those children who find it difficult to listen and remember complex sentences. Playing games such as Simon says, following simple dance routines, provide good opportunities to practise listening to, understanding and following instructions. When acting out small world play scenarios, or playing games outside, practitioners model the use of positional language.

Exploring resources, supported by the skillful use of open ended questions by practitioners, enables children to talk not just about what they can see happening but why they think these things happen.

Sequencing games and sets of pictures help children to organise and order their thoughts. At group story times or within small group work, children are invited to demonstrate their understanding of the spoken word through talking about what might happen next. Practitioners frequently invite children to elaborate on what they say, challenging them to think through their ideas and express them in a way that everyone can understand.


Ideas for parents

Communication and Language

To develop their communication and language skills, children need to learn: how to listen and pay attention; how to speak; how to make sense of what they hear. These are all important skills that children are practising from the moment they are born, long before they can speak.

Helping your child to develop their understanding of what is said to them

There are lots of easy ways you can help your child to understand what is being said to them, progressing from single words to more complicated sentences.

You could use the ideas below as starting points to help you do this.

Under twos

  • Help your baby to tune in to the sound of language by talking to him often.
  • Look at your child so he knows you are talking directly to him.
  • Use words to describe how he is feeling or what he is doing.
  • Repeat words and short phrases about things he is interested in.
  • You might want to use gestures as well as words to help him understand things.
  • Look at picture books together and name things for him.
  • When you are out and about, tell him what is happening in the world around him.

Two- to three-year-olds

  • Say your child’s name to get her attention before telling her something.
  • Keep your language simple so it is easy to understand.
  • Read stories together and talk about what happens next.
  • Play simple games where play people or animals are moved around – up, down, in, out.
  • Use words like big and little, tall and short to describe things.
  • Ask simple questions; ‘Who is that?, What is he doing?’, ‘Where’s the dog?’
  • Commentate on what’s going on and say why some things are happening.

Four- to five-year-olds

  • Tell your child what you would like them to do, not what you don’t want them to do, so they don’t get confused.
  • Play lots of games where everybody needs to listen to and follow the rules.
  • When reading a story you know well, stop before the end and ask your child to finish the story off.