Why your child’s first five years are so important for speech development


As any parent will know, children grow and develop quickly in their first five years!

From physical movement to social skills, this time brings a lot of change for any little one. And when it comes to learning to speak, the first five years are especially important.

Why? Read on to learn more about early speech development and language skills.

Early childhood development

As children grow, their brains create millions of new connections, helping them learn. In the first five years of life, the brain develops faster than at any other stage. It soaks up information like a sponge. This makes it a really important time for building skills they’ll use throughout their lives. During these years, children realise they are separate from their parents. They also learn how to relate to the world around them.

You’ll often see references to developmental milestones. These are guidelines for what stage of development most children reach at certain ages. For instance, at 9 months, most babies start to say short words such as “mama” and “baba.”

It’s important to note that every child’s growth and learning is different. So, don’t worry if your child doesn’t reach a milestone at the same time as their peers.

The importance of speech development in the first five years

For most adults, speaking comes naturally. This is because we’ve spent many years perfecting the skill. But we all had to start somewhere! From your baby’s first babble to the first time they use a complex sentence, the brain is working hard to make connections that will last a lifetime.

There are three main areas of speech and language development in the first five years. These provide a foundation to build on at school with their teachers and friends.


Knowing how to listen to and discern different sounds is a vital part of language development. When your child attends school at the age of five, they will learn by listening to their teacher and other kids.


Another key part of early language development is giving sounds, words, and phrases meaning. It will help your child’s cognition and the way they see the world.


Early years speech development is important for learning how to express thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants.

Early speech and language development in more detail

Let’s look more closely at the different aspects of early childhood speech development.

Making sounds

Early on, your baby will start to coo and laugh. They start making single-syllable sounds and repeat them (babbling). At this stage, it may sound like your baby is talking, but the sounds don’t really have meaning. Making vocal noises is an important part of learning to speak. It is the foundation on which they will start to give sounds meaning.


Although speech development mostly refers to vocal sounds, it also includes non-verbal communication. Between three and 12 months, your child will start to point and wave — a skill they will use throughout the rest of their lives.

Understanding meaning

It isn’t until about 12 months that babies start saying words that have meaning. They might say “Dada” to call for their father.

At this point, they will be able to understand more words than they can say. This is why it is so important for them to be around other people talking.

Developing sentences

A greater understanding of language, in turn, will help your child communicate how they feel. Being able to say what they need can reduce frustration and tantrums.

Speech development and speech delay

It’s worth repeating that developmental milestones are a guideline — every child will learn to speak at a slightly different age. Some children may have a speech delay, which is where their speech development is noticeably behind others their age. If you think your child may have a speech delay, you might find it helpful to track your child’s vocabulary. The Pippin Speech app can help you do this.

Why not try our fun songs and games to encourage your child’s speech development? You’ll also find tips and advice from speech therapists.
To learn more, download the Pippin app.

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