Language Development: Infants to Six Years of Age

What is Language?
Language is a code that we learn to use in order to communicate ideas and express our wants and needs. Reading, writing, speaking, and some gesture systems are all forms of language.

What makes up this language code?

  1. Creating words or signs from smaller units like sounds, letters, or body movements
  2. Modifying the meaning of root words (e.g., girl + -s = girls, walk + -ed = walked, teach + -er = teacher, quick + ly = quickly, dis- + obey = disobey)
  3. Combining words together (the grammar of the language) attaching meaning to words
  4. Holding a conversation; telling a story; and using different forms of language for different listeners, purposes, and situations.

What is speech?
Speech is the spoken form of language

How do children learn all these language rules?
Children learn language and speech by listening to the language around them and practicing what they hear. In this way, they figure out the rules of the language code. It is not learned all at once but in stages over time.

How Most Children Learn Language and Express Themselves

Age What Many Children Do... Talk to a professional...
Young Babies Newborn Babies listen and respond to your voice and other sounds; they express their feelings by cooing, gurgling, smiling, and crying. If your 3-month-old does not respond to your voice and other sources.
3 to 8 months Babies play with sounds and they babble to themselves. They use sounds to communicate (smiling at the sound of a happy voice, and crying or looking unhappy on hearing an angry voice). Babies can play peek-a-boo. They wave arms and kick feet to show excitement, and they enjoy being read to. If your 8-month-old is not making several sounds or does not reach for and grasp objects.
Crawlers and Walkers 8 to 12 months Babies understand and respond to gestures, facial expressions, and changes in tone of voice. If someone asks, "Where's Mama?" babies will look for their mother. Babies understand simple words, such as "Da Da." Babies put books in their mouths and turn pages in sturdy books and enjoy looking at pictures. If your baby does not look at people who talk to him or her. If your baby is not pointing at or making sounds to get what he or she wants, like favorite toys.
12 to 18
Babies say first words. They understand a few words and simple directions. They know their own names. They will give you a toy if you ask for it. Babies create long babbling sentences and look at picture books with interest. If your 18-month-old does not say more than a few words clearly.

Activities to Help Your Child Learn About Language


Here are some activities to help your child learn about language. Do them for as long as your child enjoys them. Then add new activities as your child grows older.

to 3 months

Listen and talk to your baby throughout the day.
Find out what your baby’s sounds and actions mean. Talk to your child about what he or she seems to be saying. While feeding, diapering, and bathing your baby, take time to sing songs, say nursery rhymes, and smile and coo in response to the baby’s smiles and coos. Smile and praise your baby for learning something new.

3 to 8

Talk and play with your baby. Use words and play actions when talking with your baby. Play games with your baby, such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, that teach your child about taking turns when communicating with another person. Place a rattle in your baby’s hand. Hold out a squeeze toy for your baby to grab. Hand things to your baby and ask the baby to hand them back.

8 to 12

Read and tell stories with your baby every day. Make reading a shared experience. Point to pictures and name the objects. Provide books that are safe to touch and taste. Cloth, vinyl, and washable books are good for babies to handle. When you read to your baby, hold the baby on your lap and hold the book so that the baby can see the pictures. Use puppets, dolls, and other toys as story props.

12 to 18

Provide play materials that match your baby’s skill and interest. Let your child "play telephone." Have a pretend telephone conversation. Let your child play with pots, pans, wooden spoons, plastic containers, and other safe household items. Arrange pillows and other objects on the floor for your child to crawl around or on and play with.

18 to 24 months

Help your toddler talk about the present, the past, and the future.
Help your toddler learn new words to talk about what he or she did in the past and will do in the future. "I think it’s going to be sunny tomorrow. What would you like to do?" Discuss the day’s events at bedtime. "Remember when we went to the park?"

Adapted from:


Following the Child

This commonly used phrase comes from the Montessori practice of observing children in their natural environment (e.g. the prepared classroom)
and using their interests and level of ability as a
guide. The caregiver provides appropriate material
and adapts to meet the needs of each child accordingly.

Using Best Early Childhood Practices

Our programs are adapted for the specific areas
we engage in (e.g. rural environments) and utilize
time tested methods to make impact at the
grassroots level. We have a dedicated core of
experienced developers and trainers, with
backgrounds in a multitude of ECD disciplines.

Creating a More Peaceful and Sustainable World

By focusing on the early years, our programs capitalize on a window of opportunity when the brain is still forming and a person is most conducive to internalizing humanistic principles. By instilling a strong framework of values and ethics in our children, we plant seeds for future prosperity in the world.

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