With attention and listening as the foundation for developing commination followed by learning through play and interaction, the next stage of communication development is receptive language which refers to the understanding of the words and sentences that we hear and the ability to make sense of them.
Children need to hear words many, many times before they can make sense of them. To illustrate this point, we can think of how babies will be listening to adults talking to them for almost a year before they begin to say their first words.
The reason for this is that they need to develop their understanding of the words they hear and how they are used before they are able to start using words themselves. Using lots of non-verbal signals help children create rich pictures of words i.e. adults pointing to items as they are labelled for the child as well as using visuals such as objects and facial expressions. Babies learn how to read these signals from very early on even from their first smile! So understanding really starts a lot earlier than speaking which is why it is so important to talk to your baby face to face.
Many parents ask lots of questions to try to assess their child’s language development, but we recommend rather than asking lots of questions, you can comment instead. Commenting simply means describing what you can see using simple words aimed at the child’s level to understanding i.e. single words i.e. “car” for under 12 months, 2 joined words i.e. “big car” for over 12 months and continuing to longer sentences as they continue to progress. Remember to use all the nonverbal signals you need to in order to ensure a child can understand what you mean such as pointing, gesturing, signing etc.
All of this will support understanding which will pave the way for the expressive language to come.