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Important skills for communication development

  • eye contact
  • joint attention
  • turn-taking

Early communication skills

Three skills which are essential to communication development in the first 12 months are eye contact, joint attention and turn-taking.

Eye contact

You will notice that from a very early age your baby is attracted to your eyes.

When your baby makes eye contact with you, it makes you feel that he wants to talk to you. This is because eye contact signals to us that someone is ‘ready’ to communicate with us.

Eye contact is also used to direct someone’s attention.

Your baby will first learn to communicate by using his eye contact to indicate to you what he wants. Later he will begin to combine actions and vocalisations with his eye contact in order to communicate with you.

Joint attention

Joint attention is attending to something at the same time as someone else.

In order to have an effective conversation, we need to talk about the same topic.

Your baby will learn to communicate through his joint activities with you.

Through play, your baby will first learn to attend to objects or toys that you place in front of him.

He will then begin to use his hands to direct his own attention to things and will begin to follow where you point.

By 12 months he will have learnt how to direct your attention by pointing and will even begin to look where you look.


In order to have a conversation we need to be able to take turns.

Turn-taking begins very early in your baby’s development.

Initially your baby will use general body movements as his turn.

As your baby develops, his turns will become more like yours.

When you talk to him, he will tend to use vocalisations more and when you do actions, he will also tend to respond with actions.

Games such as pat-a-cake are very good for encouraging turn-taking.


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Missenden Road
Camperdown NSW 2050
Phone: +61 2 9515 6111
Fax: +61 2 9515 6133

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Sydney Local Health District

Learning to Communicate