Sub-domain: Communication

The Communication sub-domain covers goals forty-eight through fifty of the Idaho Early Learning Guidelines. 

Using this guide

Scroll down to see the age group you are most interested in. Click on the goal to learn more about the goal's:

  • developmental growth
  • child indicators
  • caregiver strategies

There is an option to download the information at the end of each goal. When you click the link you will be brought to a new page where you can download the goal as a PDF.  

Adult plays with a baby on a bed

0 - 8 Months

Goal 48: Children demonstrate the meaning of language by listening.

Developmental Growth: Respond to environmental sounds and recognize familiar voices.

Child Indicators: Turns to locate the source of a sound. Orients to speaker in response to communication. Visually attends to familiar object with verbal cue. Reaches for familiar objects with verbal cue. Shows a preference for human voice to other sounds. Vocalizes or gestures in response to another person’s voice or gesture. Recognizes familiar sounds and voices.

Caregiver Strategies: Play with noise-producing objects (bells, rattles, crinkly paper, music-box). Encourage child to orient to sounds that occur near him/her by turning, looking, reaching, or moving in the direction of the sound. Exaggerate vocal patterns whisper, hum, sing, laugh) while talking to the baby. Talk to the baby frequently during daily care-giving routines (bathing, dressing, feeding, play) and vary pitch, intonation, and intensity. Interact with the baby during play with toys, rattles, and books.  Use lots of expression on the face and in the voice. Read stories and nursery rhymes.Play a variety of music. Rock and move child to the rhythm of music.

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Goal 49: Children communicate effectively.

Developmental Growth: Begin communication with facial expressions and vocal play to interact with others

Child Indicators: Initiates communication by smiling and eye contact. Changes volume and pitch to convey meaning. Imitates sounds, signs, or gestures.

Caregiver Strategies: Repeat baby’s sounds with interacting and give time to respond. Tune into the different ways baby attempts to communicate and offer an appropriate response.espond to baby’s crying and interpret baby’s signals. Interpret and give meaning to what child says—may be a gesture to start with (e.g., “You are saying baba.  Do you want your bottle?”  “You are reaching for the cup.  Do you want the cup?”). When speaking, vary inflection, volume, and tone. Get excited when your baby talks to you; pay attention and smile or react with exaggerated appropriate facial and body expressions. Match your facial expressions with expressed emotions. Recognize that a baby with certain physical disabilities, such as a cleft palate, might need more assistance in overcoming communication difficulties.

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Goal 50: Children comprehend and use conventions of social communication.

Developmental Growth: Initiate and respond to social interaction from caregiver.

Child Indicators: Turns head in reaction to human sound. Tracks items of interest (especially people) with eyes. Initiates nonverbal cues. Responds to the environment (smiles, cries, grimaces, etc.) Seeks and maintains eye contact. Responds positively to physical touch and contact. Imitates facial expressions. Initiates communication by smiling and eye contact. May return a smile or facial expression with caregiver.

Caregiver Strategies: Play simple games with exaggerated facial expressions such as peek-a-boo. Engage child in looking at adult by talking playfully (interacting in front of a mirror). Express different emotions to the child. Wave to, kiss, hug, and greet child. Follow child’s gaze to establish joint attention. Provide face-to-face interactions, physical contact, and verbal cues for the child during daily routines.

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6 - 18 Months

Goal 48: Children demonstrate the meaning of language by listening.

Developmental Growth: Recognize names for familiar people and objects.  Respond to simple requests.

Child Indicators: Reaches for familiar objects with verbal cue. Shows understanding of words by appropriate behavior or gesture (pointing to, hugging, smiling, crawling towards, reaching). Imitates adult actions that go along with simple songs, rhymes, and traditional songs (“Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Pin Pon,” “Eensy Weensy Spider”). Follows single-step directions (e.g., “Please bring me the ball.”).

Caregiver Strategies: Name objects in the environment.Play simple games that require a physical response (peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake) and sing traditional songs and finger plays. Read stories and talk about pictures. Give simple one-step directions.Respond to the baby’s sounds, offering a duet of sound, response, sound, etc.

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Goal 49: Children communicate effectively.

Developmental Growth: Progress to more structured sounds, words, and gestures to interact with others.

Child Indicators: Imitates sounds, signs, or gestures. Engages in vocal play and turn- taking. Matches facial expression, tone, and words with response. Makes new sounds; attempts to say words. Babbles using intonation and tone to convey meaning. Uses single-word sentences. Initiates communication using words, signs, and gestures.

Caregiver Strategies: Include signs and gestures in daily routines. Play simple games with turn- taking. Name body parts, familiar objects, situations, and events. Sing to and encourage child to join in through body movements. Use a lot of descriptive talk (describe what child sees, what child is doing, etc.).

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Goal 50: Children comprehend and use conventions of social communication.

Developmental Growth: Sustain shared interactions.

Child Indicators: Returns a physical demonstration of affection; a laugh or hug. Expresses preference for familiar people. Responds to nonverbal cues. Engages in vocal play and turn- taking. Initiates communication using words, signs, and gestures. Says “no” meaningfully. Uses object to initiate play with another. May respond when name is called or signed. Uses nonverbal gestures for social conventions of greeting (waves goodbye). May participate in during one-on-one communication by making sounds or using words.

Caregiver Strategies: Respond to child’s facial expressions and sounds. Encourage child to use vocalizations and gestures to gain attention. Use gestures when talking. Play with objects. Talk about what you and your child are doing as you do it. Engage in turn-taking or circular communication with child, even before he/she uses real words. Use everyday routines, (meal times) to role-play social language conventions. Play games that involve turn- taking. Provide child with play opportunities to talk to other children and adults, with guidance. Demonstrate, explain, and provide play opportunities for child to practice talking and listening (use a play or make-believe telephone, talking to dolls, animals).

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Children communicate before mastering symbolic language.

16 - 38 Months

Goal 48: Children demonstrate the meaning of language by listening.

Developmental Growth: Understand increasingly complex statements and requests.

Child Indicators: Shows understanding of words by appropriate behavior or gesture; receptive language. Locates items with verbal cue. Performs simple actions with verbal cue (jump, wave, get, come). Locates familiar objects, people, and body parts. Listens to short and simple stories; read and told. Responds to two-step directions (e.g., “Go into your bedroom and get your socks.”).

Caregiver Strategies: Play games that require the child to locate an object or person, or follow simple directions (find a ball, point to your eye). Read books and name pictures. Use puppets and other props when reading or telling stories. Include songs and stories from child’s home language in group activities. Assist child to speak on the telephone and encourage the child to listen to the person on the other end.

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Goal 49: Children communicate effectively.

Developmental Growth: Develop communication by moving from simple word combinations and gestures to more complex interactions

Child Indicators: Initiates communication using jargon, words, signs, and gestures. Changes intonation and tone to convey meaning of words. Uses sound effects in play. Uses descriptors to describe object or event. Vocalizes wants and needs. Uses phrases or short sentences. Uses pronouns to refer to self (e.g., “Me do it.”). Asks and answers simple questions. May tell simple stories and recount events. Uses non-verbal gestures and body language to express needs and feelings (gives spontaneous hug). Addresses listener appropriately to get attention (when speaking to another child, uses child’s name).

Caregiver Strategies: Ask open-ended questions to elicit response (e.g., “What is the kitty doing?”). Rephrase a child’s utterances into sentences/questions. Engage child in conversations about daily routines. Play games with more complex rules when child is ready. Model appropriate and grammatically correct language.Listen to child and give him/her time to respond.  (Wait time varies depending on child; child may need 10 to 15 seconds.)Provide opportunities for child with communication difficulties to use nonverbal ways to express self so he/she feels that attempts to communicate are valued. Provide opportunities for child to communicate with other children. Expand and respond with the correct pronunciation when child mispronounces a word (e.g., child says, “tar” and adult responds by saying, “Yes, a red car.”).

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Goal 50: Children comprehend and use conventions of social communication.

Developmental Growth: Initiate interaction using social conventions.

Child Indicators: Uses object to initiate play or seek assistance from another child or caregiver. Initiates communication using jargon, words, signs, gestures, and facial expression (e.g., says “hi” and touches a friend). Vocalizes wants and needs. Asks and answers simple questions. Takes turns in simple nonverbal directions. May use common expressions of politeness. Attends to speaker for a portion of a conversation, one on one. Makes a related comment (e.g., adult says, “Here is your water,” child says “cup” or “water cup”).Makes a formal verbal or sign request or response (e.g., “Milk please,” “More,” “May I,” “Please,” “Thank you”). Participates in conversation that builds on an idea, request, or feelings.

Caregiver Strategies: Play often, verbally describe, and expand on a shared interest. Talk frequently with child. Name and point to pictures and objects. Use gestures in communication.Talk about what you are doing during daily routines. Ask and answer where, what, and who. Talk and interact with child throughout the day. Take time daily to have conversations with child that are fun and engaging. Value and celebrate child’s home language and culture. Demonstrate, explain, and provide opportunities for child to practice culturally and socially appropriate courtesies. Pay full attention to child when listening to the child. Use symbolic actions to convey meaning.

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36 - 60 Months

Goal 48: Children demonstrate the meaning of language by listening.

Developmental Growth: Understand messages in conversations, directions, music, and stories.

Child Indicators: Attends to simple stories.Follows simple oral directions.Gains information and understanding through listening. Understands messages in conversation. Listens to finger plays, stories, and nursery rhymes. Selects specific details in a story and repeats them.Listens to others in a group discussion for a short period.Responds to questions with appropriate answers. Attends to an adult or peer who is speaking.Follows multiple-step oral directions. Attends to complex stories. Has a growing ability to discern fantasy from reality. Is working on understanding yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide child with pictures or other materials including familiar objects to stimulate talking and discussion. Increase the length and complexity of books you read and stories that you tell child. Talk with child about pictures and accompanying stories in books, magazines, and catalogs. Facilitate listening skills as children talk with each other (e.g. “Let’s listen to Susie tell about her new cat.”). Play games with child that require listening and understanding (Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light). Provide English Language Learner (ELL) or child learning any other language with opportunities to participate in and understand a second language without translation (use gestures, props, pictures, and demonstration). Provide tape-recorded stories from the child’s home culture and in the child’s home language.Provide opportunities for child to be heard. Create times when children in groups come together to listen to information. Provide a listening center for child to listen to books, music, or other media. Provide clear instructions that help child move from simple directions to an increasingly complex sequence of actions. Ask questions and give prompts about events in the past, present, and future.

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Goal 49: Children communicate effectively.

Developmental Growth: Use communication with purpose to convey a message.

Child Indicators: Asks and answer simple questions (what, where, when). Relays a simple message. States opinions and preferences using words, signs, or picture boards. Speaks clearly enough to be understood by most listeners. Describes objects and events in detail. Initiates conversation by making statements or asking questions (why, how, what, where). Expresses an idea in more than one way. Uses character voices when retelling a story or event. Uses multiple-word sentences to communicate. Responds meaningfully in conversation with adults and peers. Adjusts communication style appropriately to a variety of settings. Starts to dictate stories or messages for adult to write out.Listens while engaged in conversation in order to extend or connect an idea expressed. Makes comments related to the topic being discussed.

Caregiver Strategies: Practice songs, poems, and nursery rhymes. Ask questions about familiar stories and events. Speak clearly to child. Encourage child to express opinions, feelings, and ideas.Use puppets to retell stories.Provide opportunities to make choices and plans. Ask open-ended questions that can be answered by child in own way, to eliminate the need for right or wrong answers. Accept child’s response to your open-ended questions. Invent creative games like “message relay,” where child retells a message in a group. Play mime games that use the body to tell a story or express an idea. Engage child in conversation about a child-selected photograph or object. Provide opportunities to speak or perform in front of a group and acknowledge the effort. Provide opportunities for self- expression and creative representation (drawing materials, blocks, musical instruments for made up songs). Recognize and encourage alternate forms of communication (dance, drumming, sign, storytelling). Provide opportunities for socialization in home language.

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Goal 50: Children comprehend and use conventions of social communication.

Developmental Growth: Actively seek and engage in social interactions.

Child Indicators: Attends to speaker during a conversation. Seeks interaction with others (e.g., “Sing along with me,” “Read a story.”). Interprets subtle, nonverbal cues. Asks for help. Initiates and takes turns in group conversations. Recognizes appropriate time to enter conversation. Recognizes rising and falling intonations and what they mean (difference between a “what” question and a statement). Begins to demonstrate understanding of nonverbal cues (facial expressions for pride, displeasure, encouragement). A bilingual child can adjust language and communication form according to the person with whom he/she is speaking. Uses and interprets appropriate language depending on the purpose. Communicates appropriately with peers during play. Defines the expectations during play. Relates personal experiences to others.

Caregiver Strategies: Talk and play frequently. Set up dramatic play opportunities. Create some situations where child needs to ask for help.Use props and role-play to encourage child to participate in group conversations. Read or tell stories that involve children sharing ideas. Make special time to sit down for leisurely conversations that are of interest to the child. Provide opportunities for interaction within child’s own social conventions and also other languages and cultural groups. Turn off a video or T.V. after 5-10 minutes and discuss the movie or show with the child. Provide child with opportunities for problem-solving. Ask child to describe their play.Use peer models especially for more reticent children.

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Children learn a variety of styles of communication and ways of expressing emotions, which are determined by the specific social setting; whether it is in the home, at preschool, on the playground, a cultural event, or at a store.

60 Months - Kindergarten

Goal 48: Children demonstrate the meaning of language by listening.

Developmental Growth: Interpret messages in conversations, directions, music, and stories with increased complexity.

Child Indicators: Attends to book reading/storytelling for at least five minutes. Listens to others and responds in group conversations and discussions. Notices different tones and cadences (recognizes the difference between humorous and serious voice inflection). Enjoys listening to stories from different sources (in person, on the radio).

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to be heard, to promote listening skills during group conversations (child must listen when other children speak). Create times when children in groups come together to listen to information (elder tells story during circle time; caregiver explains significance of totem pole characters). Listen to an audio story, a story on the radio, or musical selection with child and help him/her to interpret the story (through words, art forms, dance, acting).

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Goal 49: Children communicate effectively.

Developmental Growth: Adjust communication to varied conversational and situational contexts.

Child Indicators: Initiates conversation by making statements or asking questions. Expresses an idea in more than one way. Adjusts communication style to listener (when talking to a younger child uses simple words).Uses character voices when retelling a story or event. Understands the concept of writing to communicate information or messages (attempts to write a short phrase or greeting). Draws pictures with objects and people to communicate an idea or event, with assistance. Makes, with assistance, a simple storybook using pictures, personal experience, or culture and some words.

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in conversation about a child-selected photograph or object. Provide opportunities for child to speak publicly for a small group and acknowledge him/her in the effort. Reduce a complicated story to seven or eight action sentences and act out movements with child (especially in support of English language learner).  A good story to re-enact may be Three Billy Goats Gruff or How Crane Got Blue Eyes. Provide play opportunities that include materials for child to practice oral and written communication skills (tape recorders, writing implements, paper, story props, and telephone). Recognize and encourage alternate forms of communication (dance, drumming, sign, storytelling). Have older child play and socialize in the home language with a younger child.

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Goal 50: Children comprehend and use conventions of social communication.

Developmental Growth: Use appropriate social conventions in communication with adults and peers

Child Indicators: Uses language appropriately with different audiences (uses different words with peers and adults), most of the time. Uses language appropriately depending upon the purpose (to tell stories, get information, ask for help), most of the time. Adjusts intonation and volume in a variety of settings (whispers when a baby is sleeping).Engages appropriately in communication with peers during play (talking, listening, gesturing).

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in play and conversations that help him/her practice appropriate social conventions (pretend to go to the grocery store or post office). Provide opportunities for child to engage in conversations in a variety of situations (at the playground with peers, at the post office with the postal worker, elders at family and community gatherings).

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