Kid in play area

How to Communicate With Children From Birth to 5 Years

The way your child communicates will change a lot between birth and the age of five, and children have a language of their own. Knowing what to expect can help you understand and respond to your child in meaningful ways. Here are some parenting tips for communicating with your child during the first five years.

  • Age birth to 1 year — Communication during your baby's first year may be a bit one sided, but don't let that discourage you. You have to figure out what the crying is all about. Just the sound of your voice can be nurturing to your baby. As your baby begins to make sounds and eventually form words, you can repeat the words back to your child, which encourages speaking and listening skills. By the end of the first year, your child can often respond yes or no — either vocally or by a head nod — to simple questions.
  • Age 1 to 2 years — By now your child is learning to say many new words and may understand even more. Try some casual communication and patiently try to answer what may seem like an endless string of questions like "Why?" and "What's that?" You may soon discover that you can speak and understand your toddler's own little language.
  • Age 2 to 3 years – Toddlers will continue to be curious. They may talk to you about everything from a boo-boo or lost toy to the highlight of their day. Continue to be patient and give your toddler your full attention whenever possible so it's obvious you care what he or she says.
  • Age 3 to 5 years — At this point, children begin to communicate more like miniature adults and you can have more structured communication. To help, you can ask specific questions like, "What did you read in school today?" You and your preschooler can also communicate through books, music and play.

As your children get older, make sure they feel safe talking to you. Let them know you care about what is on their minds. Taking time to check in with your kids helps them feel secure in talking with you about their fears and problems.

To help new parents, the Department of Defense has developed the New Parent Support Program. This program helps parents and expectant parents develop the skills they need to provide a nurturing environment for their children.

You can read about children's developmental milestones. If you have concerns about your child's development, speak to a pediatrician. For more information on infants and raising children, you can also check out: