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.

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.

For more activity ideas try:

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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 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.

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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:

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.

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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.