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Foundation: Communication Skills and Knowledge

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
The developing ability to communicate nonverbally and verbally

8 months

18 months

36 months

At around eight months of age, children participate in back-and-forth communication and games.

At around 18 months of age, children use conventional gestures and words to communicate meaning in short back-and-forth interactions and use the basic rules of conversational turn-taking when communicating. (Bloom, Rocissano, and Hood 1976)

At around 36 months of age, children engage in back-and-forth conversations that contain a number of turns, with each turn building upon what was said in the previous turn. (Hart and Risley 1999, 122)

For example, the child may:

  • Put arms up above head when the infant care teacher says, “soooo big.” (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 19)

  • Try to get the infant care teacher to play peek-a-boo by hiding her face behind a blanket, uncovering her face, and laughing. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 19)

  • Pull the infant care teacher’s hands away from his face during a game of peek-a-boo. (Scaled score of 11 for 7:16–8:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 106)

  • Try to clap hands to get the infant care teacher to continue playing pat-a-cake. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 19)

  • Make sounds when the infant care teacher is singing a song. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 19)

  • Interact with the infant care teacher while singing a song with actions or while doing finger plays. (Scaled score of 11 for 8:16–9:15 mos.; Bayley 2006)

For example, the child may:

  • Respond to the infant care teacher’s initiation of conversation through vocalizations or nonverbal communication. (12–19 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 37)

  • Initiate interactions with the infant care teacher by touching, vocalizing, or offering a toy. (12–19 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 37)

  • Jabber into a toy phone and then pause, as if to listen to someone on the other end. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

  • Shake head or express “no” when the infant care teacher asks if the child is ready to go back inside. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

  • Respond to the infant care teacher’s comment about a toy with an additional, but related, action or comment about the same toy; for example, make a barking sound when the infant care teacher pats a toy dog and says, “Nice doggie.” (By 18mos.; Bloom, Rocissano, and Hood 1976)

For example, the child may:

  • Persist in trying to get the infant care teacher to respond by repeating, speaking more loudly, expanding on what the child said, or touching the infant care teacher. (After 30mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 38)

  • Repeat part of what the adult just said in order to continue the conversation. (31–34 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 186; by 24 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004)

  • Make comments in a conversation that the other person has difficulty understanding; for example, suddenly switch topics or use pronouns without making clear what is being talked about. (31–34 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 192)

  • Answer adults’ questions, such as “What’s that?” and “Where did it go?” (31–34 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 185; 24–36 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Begin to create understandable topics for a conversation partner.

  • Sometimes get frustrated if the infant care teacher does not understand what the child is trying to communicate. (28.5–36 mos.; Parks 2004, 129)

  • Participate in back-and-forth interaction with the infant care teacher by speaking, giving feedback, and adding to what was originally said. (29–36 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 36, 39–40)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (4 to 7 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Respond with babbling when the infant care teacher asks a question. (Hart and Risley 1999, 55)
  • Laugh when a parent nuzzles her face in the child’s belly, vocalizes expectantly when she pulls back, and laugh when she nuzzles again. (3–6 mos.; Parks 2004, 11)
  • Move body in a rocking motion to get the infant care teacher to continue rocking. (4-5 mos.; Parks 2004, 57)Babble back and forth with the infant care teacher during diaper change. (5.5–6.5 mos.; Parks 2004, 125)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (9 to 17 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Copy the infant care teacher in waving “bye-bye” to a parent as he leaves the room. (Scaled score of 9 for 12:16–13:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, No. 14, 88; 8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 19)

  • Purse lips after hearing and seeing the infant care teacher make a sputtering sound with her lips. (9 mos.; Apfel and Provence 2001)

  • Repeat the last word in an adult’s question in order to continue the conversation; for example, saying “dat” after the infant care teacher asks, “What is that?” (11–16 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 83)

  • Respond with “yes” or “no” when asked a simple question. (11–16 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 83)

  • Hold out a toy for the infant care teacher to take and then reach out to accept it when the infant care teacher offers it back. (12–15 mos.; Parks 2004, 122)

  • Show an understanding that a conversation must build on what the other partner says; for example, expressing, “bear” when the infant care teacher points to the stuffed bear and asks, “What’s that?” (16 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 81)

  • Initiate back-and-forth interaction with the infant care teacher by babbling and then waiting for the infant care teacher to respond before babbling again. (11–19 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 77; 12 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 27)

  • Say “mmm” when eating, after a parent says, “mmm.” (11–19 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 78)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (19 to 35 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Ask and answer simple questions, such as “What’s that?” (19 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 61)

  • Say, “huh?” when interacting with the infant care teacher to keep interaction going. (19mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 62)

  • Repeat or add on to what she just said if the infant care teacher does not respond right away. (20–28 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 105)

  • Engage in short back-and-forth interactions with a family member by responding to comments, questions, and prompts. (20–28 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 39)

  • Respond almost immediately after a parent finishes talking in order to continue the interaction. (20–28 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 97)

  • Get frustrated if the infant care teacher does not understand what the child is trying to communicate. (24–28.5 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Attempt to continue conversation, even when the adult does not understand him right away, by trying to use different words to communicate the meaning. (27–30 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 182)

  • Sustain conversation about one topic for one or two turns, usually about something that is in the here and now. (20–28 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 107; 27–30 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 182)

  • Respond verbally to adults’ questions or comments. (27–30 mos.; Hulit and Howard 2006, 182)

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | itfoundations@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 23, 2016
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