Speech and language development (2-6 years) - Little Étoile

Speech and language development (2-6 years)

Why is it important?

Speech and language are fundamental to children’s cognitive and behavioral development. It provides them an important tool to learn and communicate. It is also fundamental to their personality and sense of identity.

As they grow, their language skills become more complex, and their memory for facts increases, through their knowledge of words and language.

How do they learn?

Children absorb information “like a sponge”. They learn by remembering words they hear from adults, other children, tv, multimedia. They also develop a visual memory from words seen in books and multimedia. They associate words with people and objects, and this is how they develop memory skills. They also mimic what adults say and use role play. Speech stimulates complex processes in specific areas of the brain.
As they become more interactive and engaged, children use speech to question about the world around them, to help them remember people and objects, to make conversations, and to express their wants, needs, and feelings.
Children actually retain much more in their memory than what they use. From toddler age, they are able to understand about 3 times as many words as they speak [1], and this gap continues, but their vocabulary (number of words they know) increases by ten times every year.

When is the best time for language development?

Word understanding begins to increase after about 1.5-2 years. From as early as 3-6 months kids respond to language and begin to “babble” in syllables, using their voices, even though they might not be able make full words or sentences yet. These form part of a positive memory pattern and encourages them to learn in later years.
Kids can also pick up very complex sounds and vocal changes from 2-5 years, such as being able to tell the difference between mum or dad, or other kids. In general, the period from 3 to 6 years is the most critical time for children to learn a spoken language[2].

Key nutrients needed for eye development

Nutrient Function Dietary Sources
Vitamin A Required for vision and retina development. Infants accumulate stores in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and rely on breast milk for continued supply until the introduction of solid foods [8]. Breastmilk or Infant Formula


Lutein A carotenoid that accumulates in the retina where it prevents damage from reactive oxygen species.
DHA Needed for the growth and development of the brain and retina, where it accumulates [9].

Bone and teeth development

Babies are born with 20 baby teeth (also known as primary teeth) which stay under the gums until about 6 months of age when baby’s first teeth begin to appear. Teeth can start moving under the gums causing teething symptoms as early as 2 months of age [10].

Babies are born with soft, flexible bones, and spaces between the bones on the skull, known as fontanelles (soft spots) which help delivery through the birth canal. The newborn skeleton contains a lot of cartilage, which begins to harden into bone at around 3 months of age.

Sufficient vitamin D stores passed on from the mother during gestation are critical for bone development. Preterm babies and babies born to mothers with vitamin D deficiency are usually given infant vitamin D drops to prevent Rickets and support normal bone development.

Key nutrients needed for bone and tooth development

Nutrient Function Dietary Sources
Calcium Mineralization and growth of bones and teeth as cartilage is replaced with solid bone Breastmilk or Infant Formula
Vitamin D Needed for normal bone formation, absorption of calcium from the diet, and prevention of Rickets. Breastmilk, Infant Formula or infant supplement
Vitamin K Absorption of calcium within bone during development and elongation. Administered at birth. Breastmilk or Infant Formula
Phosphorus Maintain bone mineralisation Breastmilk or Infant Formula
Manganese Bone formation Breastmilk or Infant Formula

Intestinal, gut microbiota and immune development

While scientists have always believed that babies are born with a sterile gut [11], this topic is being debated [12]. Whether or not the infant gut is sterile, babies are born with a very limited microbiome, which begins to develop rapidly after birth.

Babies born vaginally acquire bacteria passed on through the birth canal which begins colonization of the infant microbiome. Colostrum and early breastmilk contain high levels of beneficial bacteria, prebiotic sugars and immune stimulating compounds deigned to begin the microbiome and immune system development.

Newborns have a permeable gut, sometimes referred to as an ‘open gut’. The gaps in between the cells of the intestine allow for the transfer of immunoglobulins passed on from breastmilk to stimulate early immune system development. Intestinal permeability gradually decreases over the first 2 months of life and is complete by the time solids are introduced (not before 4 months of age) [13].

Key nutrients needed for digestive and immune development

Nutrient Function Dietary Sources
Vitamin A Formation and maintenance of mucous membranes (intestines), immune system development and function. Breastmilk or Infant Formula
Zinc Formation and maintenance of mucous membranes (intestines), immune system development and function.
Vitamin C Formation of collagen and connective tissue, immune system development and function.
EPA & DHA Immune system development and function.
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) Prebiotics – help to feed beneficial bacteria that colonize and reside in the gut.
Lactoferrin Stimulates the immune system, promotes growth of gut microbes; antibiotic properties.
Nucleotides Immune system development, growth, development and repair of the gut.

Developmental milestones birth to 6 months

Gross motor skills: lift head, straighten legs on flat surface, roll on tummy, sit briefly unsupported.

Fine motor skills: hold object, reach for dangling objects, notice own hands and play with fingers, pass toy from one hand to another.

Self-help skills: open mouth when see breast or bottle, bring toy to mouth, place both hands on breast or bottle during feeds.

Cognitive skills: looks at people’s faces, eyes follow moving object, focus eyes on sound, find toy partially hidden under cloth [6].


  1. Fox SE, et al. Child Development. 2010; 81:28–40.
  2. Mosca F, et al. Pediatr Med Chir. 2017; Jun 28;39(2).
  3. Derbyshire E, Obeid R. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):1731.
  4. Cusick SE, Georgieff MK. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2016 Aug;175:16-21.
  5. Cerdó T, at al.Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2019 Nov;22(6):434-441.
  6. http://www.childrensmn.org/references/pfs/rehabpublic/developmental-milestones-birth-6-months.pdf
  7. https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-health-for-life/infant-vision?sso=y
  8. https://www.rch.org.au/immigranthealth/clinical/Vitamin_A/
  9. Huang HL, et al. Lipids Health Dis. 2013 Mar;12:27.
  10. Http://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/how-your-babys-teeth-develop
  11. Khan S, et al Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2015;100:A50-A51.
  12. Willis KA, et al. FASEB J. 2019 Nov;33(11):12825-12837.
  13. Castellaneta, et al. Journal Pediatric Gastro Nutr: 2005 May;40(5):632.