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, attention and understanding

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Listen attentively and respond to what they hear with relevant questions, comments and actions when being read to and during whole class discussions and small group interactions;
  • Make comments about what they have heard and ask questions to clarify their understanding;
  • Hold conversation when engaged in back-and-forth exchanges with their teacher and peers.
  • Speaking

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Participate in small group, class and one-to-one discussions, offering their own ideas, using recently introduced vocabulary;
  • Offer explanations for why things might happen, making use of recently introduced vocabulary from stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems when appropriate;
  • Express their ideas and feelings about their experiences using full sentences, including use of past, present and future tenses and making use of conjunctions, with modelling and support from their teacher.

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.

Rhyming helps children to break words down and to hear the sounds that make up words. So why not have a daily rhyme time 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.

For more activity ideas try:


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 area Graduated Response Early Years (SEND) Team. You can find information about how to contact them on our Supporting children with SEND web page.

If you need to make a referral to a speech and language therapist, you can download the forms you need from our Local Offer web page.


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:

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.


Need advice?

If you'd like more advice or support get in touch with your area Early Years Educational Effectiveness Team:

Make sure you check out the Surrey Forum dedicated to childcare professionals in Surrey on the national EYFS Forum. We have an EYFS learning and development section where we post best practice ideas and resources and you can get peer support.


Files available to download

  • Top tips posters (PDF)
    A series of 38 posters for you to use in your setting, with tips for parents to support their young child's communication skills and language development.