Literacy Teaching Toolkit video: Vocalisation and speech development

This video explores how children’s speech develops from early vocalisations, to progressively clearer speech during the first three years.

Educators engage children in play and conversation, responding to all attempts at vocalisation and words. Educators encourage children to express themselves non-verbally and verbally.

Reflective practice


  • The sounds, vocalisations, and words spoken by children.
  • The ways that children use gestures and vocalisations in combination.
  • The way that children use verbal and nonverbal communication to comment, request, describe and ask questions.
  • The way educators respond to children’s sounds and words.

Reflection questions

  • For the very young children in your setting, what sounds and words are children making?
  • Consider ways in which educators respond when they don’t understand what a child is saying.
  • Does the fact that English has 44 speech sounds surprise you?
  • Why do you think children’s speech is easier to understand when adults are familiar with them?
  • What is meant by an expected speech error?
  • Discuss some ways you support children to communicate (verbally and nonverbally), and how this compares to the educators in this video.

Learning experience plan

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • early communicators, early language users, language and emergent literacy learners (Birth - 60 months)
  • learning foci: speech sounds, making meaning and expressing ideas (interacting with others)
  • teaching practices: language in everyday situations, language stimulation.

Links to VEYLDF

Outcome 5: Communication

  • Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes
    respond verbally and non-verbally to what they see, hear, touch, feel and taste.
  • contribute their ideas and experiences in play and small and large group discussion.

Victorian Curriculum Levels F-2: language

Understand that language can be used to explore ways of expressing needs, likes and dislikes. (VCELA166)

Understand the use of vocabulary in familiar contexts related to everyday experiences, personal interests and topics taught at school. (VCELA167)

Learning intentions

  • Supporting children’s use of vocalisation, spoken words, in combinations with gestures and eye gaze.
  • Supporting children’s speech development.

Assessment of learning

This is demonstrated when children:

  • use a combination of nonverbal and verbal communication to interact with others.
  • produce approximations of spoken words with gradually clearer pronunciation over time.


  • An Australian ABC of Animals by Bronwyn Bancroft.
  • B is for Bedtime by Margaret Hamilton and Anna Pignataro.
  • Big Machines by Lissa James.
  • E is for Echidna by Bronwyn Bancroft.

Group size

Individual or small group (2-5 children).

Experience process

1. Respond to all children’s attempts at communication with attention and affection.

2. Imitate and play with speech sounds and vocalisations that children make.

  • Treat every communication attempt as meaningful, and try to respond each time.
  • Don’t be afraid to sound silly as you repeat back a child’s sounds and early words.

3. Games and songs for speech/language.

  • Use speech sounds and language during social games like peek-a-boo.
  • Emphasise speech sounds in nursery rhymes like Incy Wincy Spider and Old Macdonald.
  • Follow the child’s interests and play preferences.

Related videos and learning experience plans


Experience plans

Links to sections