Learning to talk

mum and baby reading together

Chat, play, read!

Babies and young children love it when you chat, play and read with them, even if you think they're too young to understand. You can turn almost anything into a game. And every little thing you do together will help set them up nicely for the day they start school.

Tips to help with speech development

Here are some tips and activities to help your baby develop their speech skills:

  • try playing with things your baby is interested in, and be at their level physically while you're playing together
  • as soon as you notice your baby looking or pointing at something, talk about it before their attention moves on to something else – that might be within a couple of seconds
  • use picture books to introduce your baby to new things – point to the pictures and say what you see
  • take turns to make noises or speak with your baby, even with young babies, as you can respond to their babbling by copying back the sounds you hear and then waiting for them to take another turn
  • make reading, singing and playing fun by using lots of actions and different voices
  • use the same song or book – babies and young children learn a lot when they are familiar with particular songs and books
  • talk to your baby in short, simple sentences, as it helps them understand what you are saying and makes it easier for them to have a go at copying when they're ready

Video: Storytime

Watch this video of a mum and baby sharing a story together. The baby loves hearing her mum describe the animals in the zoo.

Ideas to help your baby learn

Here are some ideas to help your child learn by chatting, playing and reading with them.

  • Match your actions to what you're saying, like waving when you say bye.
  • Play with everyday items together – you could put some in a bag and talk about what they are as your child pulls them out.
  • Join in playtime activities like peekaboo saying things like, "Where are you? There you are!".
  • Chat to your baby about the things they can see, for example, "Look at the car".
  • Look at very simple picture books with your child together and describe the pictures to your baby.
  • At bedtime, look at a simple picture book with your child, notice what they are looking at and describe the image.
  • Act out actions in songs, for example, "Row, row, row your boat".
  • Read together – try using books with textures that your baby can feel.
  • Learning more than one language

    It's important to talk to your child in the language or languages you use.

    A child learning more than one language should babble and say their first words in the same way as a child learning one language.

    It is important not to confuse this slight delay with language difficulties – most children quickly catch up.

    For more help on languages, have a look at the parent's questions on the National Literacy Trust website.

    happy toddler sitting down

    Help and advice

    At about 12 months, your health visitor will talk to you about your baby's development. They will let you know if your baby needs a little extra support. They may also suggest local activities.

    Ask your health visiting team for support whenever you need it, they will be able to provide tips and advice.

    Remember, children learn to talk at different ages. If you are worried, speak to your health visitor or nursery key worker, or contact your local speech and language therapy service for advice.

    For more ideas on how you can help your child, visit:

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