Although preschoolers are pervasively underinformative in their actual usage of verbal reference, a number of studies have shown that they nonetheless demonstrate sensitivity to listener informational needs, at least when environmental cues to this are obvious. We investigated two issues. The first concerned the types of visual cues to interlocutor informational needs which children aged 2;6 can process whilst producing complex referring expressions. The second was whether performance in experimental tasks related to naturalistic conversational proficiency. We found that 2;6-year-olds used fewer complex expressions when the objects were dissimilar compared to highly similar objects, indicating that they tailor their verbal expressions to the informational needs of another person, even when the cue to the informational need is relatively opaque. We also found a correlation between conversational skills as rated by the parents and the degree to which 2;6-year-olds could learn from feedback to produce complex referring expressions.