Your pregnancy and baby guideHelp your baby learn to talk
Hold your baby close and look at them
- Hold your baby close and look at them as you talk to them. Babies love faces and will watch you and respond as you talk
- Chat about what you are doing as you feed, change and bath them
- Sing to your baby – this helps them tune in to the rhythm of language
- Repeat the sounds your baby makes back to them – this teaches your baby useful lessons about listening and taking turns in a conversation
- Talk in a sing-song voice – this helps to keep your baby's attention
The charity Best Beginnings has videos about talking, singing and playing with your baby.
- Name and point out things you can both see – for example, "Look, a cat". This will help your baby learn words and, in time, they'll start to copy you. As your baby gets older, add more detail ("Look, a black cat").
- Start looking at books with your baby – you don't have to read the words on the page, just talk about what you can see.
- Only offer a dummy when it's time for sleep. It's hard to learn to talk with a dummy in your mouth. Aim to lose dummies completely by one year. Visit the Talking Point website for more about how dummies can affect speech.
- Play games, like "peek-a-boo" and "round and round the garden". This teaches your baby important skills like turn-taking, paying attention and listening.
- If your child is trying to say a word but gets it wrong, say the word properly. For example, if they point to a cat and say "Ca!" say, "Yes, it's a cat". Don't criticise or tell them off for getting the word wrong.
- Increase your child's vocabulary by giving them choices, such as, "Do you want an apple or a banana?".
- Toys and books that make a noise will help your child's listening skills.
- Enjoy singing nursery rhymes and songs together as your baby grows, especially those with actions like "Pat-a-cake", "Row, row, row your boat" and "Wind the bobbin up". Doing the actions helps your child to remember the words.
- Repeat words – for example, "Where are your shoes?", "They're blue shoes, aren't they?" and "Let's put your shoes on". Repetition helps your child to remember words.
- Use simple instructions – your child will understand some instructions now, such as "Get your coat" or '"Shut the door". Keeping instructions short and simple will help your child understand.
- Try asking "Where's your..." – ask your child to point to their ear, nose, foot and so on.
- Limit your child's daily TV time to no more than half an hour for under-twos. Playing and listening to stories is more helpful when they're learning to talk.
- Help them build sentences – your child will start to put simple sentences together around age two. Try to reply using sentences that are a word or two longer. For example if they say, "sock off" say "yes, we're taking your sock off".
- Get your child's attention by saying their name at the start of a sentence. If you ask a question, give them plenty of time to answer you.
- Switch off the television and radio – background noise makes it harder for your child to listen to you.
- Talk as you clean – children this age love to help out. Chat about what you're doing as you do chores like shopping, cooking and cleaning together.
Visit the Talking Points website for talking milestones from birth to age three.
Think your child may have a speech or language problem?
If you're worried about your child's speech or language development, talk to your GP or health visitor. If necessary, they will refer your child to your local speech and language therapy department.
If you prefer, you can refer your child to a speech and language therapist yourself.
To find a speech and language therapist near you, or for more information about helping your child to talk, visit the Talking Point website.
How to help your bilingual child
Lots of children grow up in a family where more than one language is spoken. This can be an advantage to children in their learning. Knowing another language will help the development of their English.
The important thing is to talk to your child in whatever language feels comfortable to you. This may mean that one parent uses one language, while the other uses another. Children adapt to this very well.
Page last reviewed: 20/04/2016
Next review due: 20/04/2019