Communication and staying positive

Communicating with each other

Most brain development occurs from birth to the age of two. Talking and listening to your child from birth helps them to develop their communication skills. It enables them to feel loved and to express themselves. It also helps them to learn to develop good relationships, and the two of you will form a close bond with each other.

How can I help my tot to talk?

Your toddler learning to talk changes everything. From that magic first word to a full conversation, you can help your toddler communicate with the world. You don’t have to be an expert to help your child to talk. Here are a few tips to support your toddler’s talking skills.

Around 12 to 18 months — talk, act, do

  • Keep on talking. Experts say that toddlers need to hear a word repeated around 500 times before they use it.
  • Act it out. Help your tot to make connections between actions and words by talking them through what you are doing. For example, ‘Let’s put your coat on to go out now. First one arm in the sleeve. Now the other arm’.
  • Baby talk is okay. At first your little one won’t pronounce words properly. They might say ‘do’ for dog, ‘gurkey’ for turkey or ‘dat’ for that. You don’t always need to correct them. They’ll begin to say things ‘properly’ in their own good time.
  • Help them add to their vocabulary with new experiences like trip on the bus or train or a visit to a city farm. Talk to them about things you have seen and done together. The Play Talk Read website contains lots of ideas on how you can talk to your child during everyday activities.
  • Help convey what they say to other people. If others can’t understand what your child is saying, help them out so they gain confidence in talking and that what they say is understood.
  • If your child uses a dummy, try not to allow your child to speak while their dummy is in their mouth. Better remove it altogether.

Around 19 to 24 months — routine chatter, feelings, conversations

  • Talk about what is happening as you go about everyday activities. ‘We’re putting the toys in the toy box’. ‘Pass me the blocks Tom’. ‘Help me put them in the box.’ The Play Talk Read website contains lots of hints and tips for talking to your child.
  • Help them to learn to identify and name their feelings. For example, ‘You’re happy to see Granddad’, ‘You’re angry because it’s time to stop playing now’.
  • Use questions and answers to help them realise that communication goes two ways. For example, if something happens ask them why. ‘Why is the cat meowing?’ Or if you’re looking at a book together ask them what they think is happening in the pictures.

Around 25 to 36 months — imagine, learn words, use language together

  • Use every opportunity you can to talk to them and encourage their growing vocabulary.
  • Join in their make-believe play; ask them what they doing, where they are going, where they live. Let their imagination show you what they’re doing.
  • When reading a book or watching TV together, encourage them to tell you what’s happening and explain why they think things happen. The Play Talk Read website has lots of tips for sharing a book together.
  • Encourage them to help you and put names to things. Teach them that different activities have different words, for example in cooking the words are chop, mix, beat, scrape, hot.
  • Use a variety of words and encourage them to use words to describe things – the red ball, the big building, the soft blanket.
  • Enjoy stories, nursery rhymes and songs together. Your play@home toddler book has lots of ideas for activities for you to do together.

The National Literacy Trust website has lots of tips on how talking to your child can develop good language and communication skills.

Alongside the physical skills your child is developing, they are also learning how to use their minds to think, solve problems and learn to make sense of their emotions as well as other people’s. Your kids are just like you. Your best present to them is to love them no matter what, to respect them as individuals and to praise them all you can. It sounds simple – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Health experts and parents just like you have all helped to put together these strategies that both you and your kids can use to help you communicate and make the most out of spending time together.

Your kids are just like you. Your best present to them is to love them no matter what, to respect them as individuals and to praise them all you can. Sounds simple – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Parents just like you and experts have all helped to put together these strategies that both you and your kids can use to help you communicate and make the most out of spending time together.

Non-verbal: shhhh, don’t say it

  • Let your tot see your face by coming down to their level when you speak. This will help them to understand what you are saying by following where you look when you speak. Remember to always turn off background noise when you're speaking to them too.
  • Even when you do speak, think about how you say things – toddlers have difficulty following lots of words, so keep what you say short and simple. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. Make your voice slightly higher if you need to attract your child’s attention.
  • What you think matters! Try not to see one child as ‘good’ and the other one as ‘naughty’. Each one is different, so aim to treat them equally, but to their individual needs.
  • You feel like you’re nagging and don’t want to, it may take some time to change their behaviour, but persevere with giving praise and you will succeed

Verbal: how to make small talk do big things

  • You know conversation involves taking turns. Simple question and answer conversations as well as games like Peek-a-boo will help your tot get the idea.
  • Don’t worry if they make mistakes. Words like ‘sheeps’ and ‘goed’ are signs that they’re applying rules of language. Simply repeat back the correct form.
  • Show your little one you understand what they are trying to convey by expanding on what they say, for instance asking them about what they are making and what could happen next in a game.
  • Help your child become emotionally aware by noticing and naming their feelings.
  • Turn a blind eye to mispronunciation, but use the correct pronunciation yourself
Last updated: 8 April 2013
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