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Communication and language in the EYFS

As children develop speaking and listening skills, they're building the foundations for literacy and learning. Plus they're learning key skills like how to express themselves and make friends. Here we give you tips and ideas to support the children in your early years settings.

Communications and language and the EYFS

Communication and language is one of the three prime areas within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Each prime area is divided into early learning goals, for communication and language these are:

  • Listening and attention - these skills support language learning and include the ability to discriminate sounds and maintain and monitor attention in a shared context.
  • Understanding - young children gradually develop the ability to understand words in context, beginning with single words and building on this with phrases and more and more complex sentences.
  • Speaking - this allows children to express their feelings, needs and wants, their thoughts and ideas and be able to talk about what has happened and about creative or imaginative events.

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Best practice and activity ideas

You're the best resource in your setting to support a child's language and communication development. Young children need lots of opportunities to have conversations with you and to hear you modelling language and introducing new words. They learn language better when they're engaged with things that fascinate, challenge and excite them. And they need to hear and say new words often to strengthen the connections in their brains and to keep building their vocabulary. Download Understanding communication and language development (PDF) to find out more about how children learn language and how to support them.  

Rhyming helps children to break words down and to hear the sounds that make up words. So why not have a daily rhymetime in your setting? Sharing stories and books is a great way to practice words and introduce new ones too. Check out our Reading in the EYFS for lots of ideas.

Activity ideas

We also have a page full of ideas for supporting children with English as an additional language.

Case studies

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Child assessment tool

You can download and use this early language child monitoring tool (PDF) to help you assess a child's progress in each of the aspects of communication and language and plan next steps for their learning.

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Supporting children with additional needs

The term speech, language and communication needs includes children who have difficulties with fluency, forming sounds and words, understanding what others say, and using language to communicate, particularly socially.

If you're concerned about a child's language development speak to your early years sector improvement advisor, home-based childcare advisor or playwork advisor. If you don't know who this is call us at Surrey Early Years and Childcare Service, on 01372 833833 or email

If you need to make a referral to a speech and language therapist, you can download the forms you need from our Supporting children with SEND web page.

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Working with dads, mums and carers

There are lots of ways you can help parents support their child's communication and language skills at home. Send parents a link to our How parents can help with communication web page or try these free resources:

Put up a poster in your setting with tips for parents on how they can support their child's language development. We have two free sets of posters you can use, Top Tips (PDF) and Why not turn off the television and..? (PDF). Each set includes 38 posters so there's one for each week of the school terms.

Share the Communication Trust's films that help parents to encourage their child to interact and talk with them. The four films are divided into age groups, from newborns up to the age of three. There's also guidance to help you get the best from the films when working with parents.

If you work with any families with English as an additional language, you might like to share the quick tips available bilingually in 17 languages from the National Literacy Trust. They include topics like Talk to your baby in your own language, Dummies and talking and Sharing songs and rhymes. And check out our Supporting children with English as an additional language page as there are tips for working with their families too.

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We regularly offer training for childcare professionals around communication and language. Check your training programme to see what's available (it changes term to term).

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Contact us

If you'd like more advice or support, contact your early years sector improvement advisor, home-based childcare advisor or playwork advisor. If you're not sure who this is, get in touch with us at Surrey Early Years and Childcare Service by calling 01372 833833 or emailing

Files available to download