Nonverbal communication includes communication through body movement, facial expression, posture, gestures, tone of voice, sounds, (such as laughing, crying, clearing the throat, etc.), touch, smell or dress. In infancy, non-verbal techniques are our primary means of communicating with others and include such things as eye contact, facial expressions, movement, body postures, etc. These techniques, in combination with early sound making, help us communicate effectively with our caregivers.
As the typical infant matures, non-verbal techniques are assimilated, and the infant gradually becomes more skilled at utilizing a verbal communication system. Throughout life, individuals continue to become more skilled verbally, constantly learning and engaging in complex verbal interactions with others.
In the infant and young child, there are critical periods during which the basis for all future verbal language development occurs. This development generally takes place between the ages of birth and three years; however, many extend somewhat beyond that for maturation of the speech sound (phonological) system. Please refer to the chart below for an overview of developmental milestones for communication.
(RESOURCE: Handbook of Infant Mental Health, Edited by Charles H. Zeanah, Jr.)