How parents can help with communication

In the first five years of your child's life they will learn more about speaking and words than at any other time. Your child needs good speaking and listening skills to learn so it is really important that you help in the development of their language.

At what age should I start talking to my child?

From the moment they are born be sure to make eye contact and smile. You can even sing and talk to your bump as your child can recognise your voice from inside the womb.

Our Talk with me communication leaflets have tips to try during pregnancy and take you through to when your child reaches the age of five.

When should I talk to my child?

Every chance you get. It's important to talk about what you and they are doing whether you are at home or out and about.

You can find tips and ideas in our Talking Time activity cards and Why not try this at home? activity ideas for toddlers which cover a range of different aspects of learning with your child.

Why is it important to share songs, rhymes and stories with my child?

Children learn best when they are playing and these activities are good for developing listening and attention skills. When you share a book your child can copy words, name pictures and describe what is happening, which provides them with valuable opportunities to hear repeated language.

Library storytimes and rhymetimes provide a fun and enjoyable introduction to books and libraries for young children and are great for language development.

Do I need to be an expert to help my child develop good communication skills?

No, the important thing is to talk and respond to your child. Communication is a two-way exchange, so even when your child is babbling it's important to respond. This is the beginning of conversation.

How can I help my child to understand what I am saying?

When you are speaking, stop what you are doing, use your child's name, get down to your child's level, make eye contact. Make sure you are close enough to your child as young children find it difficult to respond at a distance. Use lots of gestures to back up what you are saying or offer choices, for example "Do you want juice or milk?".

If my child says something incorrectly what should I do?

Say it back the right way, and add to it. If he says "boo boa" say "Yes, it's a lovely blue boat, isn't it?".

My friend's child is already saying lots of words and my child only says a few does he need Speech and Language Therapy?

As with other skills, children will develop language skills at different rates. Children understand far more than they can say. If you are really concerned check with your Health Visitor or log on to the Talking Point website to check how language develops.

Will sucking a dummy create problems for my child's speech and language development?

Dummies prevent babies from babbling and toddlers from chatting and they need lots of practice at this to develop language skills. Children with dummies in their mouths form sounds incorrectly as they try to put their mouths and tongues in the right position to say a word.

My child is quite young is it okay for them to watch television?

For a limited period, but watch with them and talk about it. Nobody learns words by passively watching TV so limit TV time and use the time to play.

English is not my first language. What language should I speak with my child?

It's important for your child to hear language spoken correctly so speak to them in the language that you feel most comfortable with, it is the quality of interaction that is important it doesn't matter what language you use.

You can find bilingual quick tips on how to develop good talking and listening skills on the National Literacy Trust website. They include topics like Talk to your baby in your own language, Dummies and talking and Sharing songs and rhymes.

Further information

You can find further tips and activity ideas to help you with your child's learning and development on our Learn with me web pages.

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