Stages of Speaking & Listening Development

Speaking and listening development are directly related as children learn to speak partially through hearing. From birth, humans begin to notice others speaking, and unless the hearing ability is somehow disturbed, people also hear from many different sources.

Three Stages of Speaking

In the first stage of speaking, called the social or external speech stage, the child uses language to control others, such as stating, "Want milk." In the second stage, egocentric speech, a child narrates activities out loud. Children are naturally self-centered in this stage and believe words help with actions. In the final inner speech stage, children learn to internalise thoughts rather than express every desire verbally.

Listening Birth to Six Months

Babies listen and respond to familiar voices. They will startle at loud or sudden noises. Closer to six months, the infant begins to respond to his name. The child turns his head or eyes toward the source of a noise or familiar voice. The infant responds appropriately to friendly or negative voice overtones.

Listening Six to 12 Months

The child begins to copy small words or word fragments recognised through listening. Simple instructions are understood, especially when accompanied by visual cues. Babies at this stage begin to understand the give and take of conversation, as well as the value of using the voice and words to solicit a response.

Listening One to Three Years

The child between one and three years begins to understand language as a tool. Rules and restrictions can be followed and understood. The child matches facial expressions with vocal tones to understand adults. Since the toddler is beginning to copy simple words, adults need to demonstrate listening skills by paying attention to the child's attempt at speech.

Listening Three to Five Years

For three to five year olds, vocabulary grows at an exponential rate. Children in the preschool years are able to follow more extensive direction. As the attention span grows, the ability to sit and listen for longer gives adults the opportunity to read longer books or provide longer lessons. Children are absorbing more concepts through listening and are observing adults through sound to learn how to interact with others.

Listening Five to Eight Years

School age children possess the ability to listen to longer lessons and continue to learn communication through observations of adults. Additionally, the school age child is paying attention to other sources of information, such as friends and media. An adult helps a school age child learn social listening skills by demonstrating turn taking in conversation and encouraging the child to avoid interrupting other speakers.

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About the Author

Rebecca Mayglothling has worked directly with toddlers and preschoolers for more than three years. She has published numerous lesson plans online as well as parenting and teaching advice. She continues to keep ahead of parenting methods and is eager to share them through her professional writing.