How you can help

A man bathing a babyIt's never too soon to talk to your child. Babies will even respond to voices in their mum’s tummies.

Don’t worry if you think they can’t understand you. You are teaching them new words by talking to them in a fun way and by waiting for them to try and talk back!

Listen and talk to the children you know in your lives. Teach them new words and about new things and give them time to respond to you. Let’s get talking together! You will find lots of ideas here to help you.

Click on the links below for more information about our top tips to talking.


Talking Tuesdays

Talking Tuesdays is a monthly challenge. It is designed to give you fun ideas for practising language skills with your little one. Some are seasonal, but lots of them can be done at any time of year. Below you can find all of the Talking Tuesdays challenges from the year so far:







Summer Challenge 2018

The Talking Tuesdays Summer Challenge was a weekly challenge designed to get you talking.


Challenge 1

Make a wand!

You can use ribbon, feathers, buttons and beads, glitter


Challenge 2

Make a den!You could use: towels, cushions, cardboard boxes, blankets, branches, duvet, chairs, tables. Get creative! Let's get talking: dark, soft, hide, hard, smooth, quietly, small, big, lift, whisper, sturdy, squeeze, strong, heavy, peek


Challenge 3

Teddy Bear's picnic.

Our 'Talking Tuesday' challenge this week is to have a teddy bear's picnic! find your teapot, cups and saucer and get talking. Don't forget to take a photo of your picnic for your challenge passport. Let's get talking! Pouring, stirring, yummy, teapot, apple, your turn, blanket, chopping, sipping, cup and saucer, rumbling tummy, chomping, hot, tasty, eating, nibbling


Challenge 4

Make up a story

Once upon a time...what happened? Where did it happen? Who is in the story? How does it end? The end! Don't forget to take a photo for your summer challenge passport!


Challenge 5

Let's get messy

Our Talking Tuesday Challenge this week is to play with a messy activity! Why not try cooked spaghetti, oats, playdough, shredded paper - the possibilities are endless. Painting, mid, shaving foam, cereals, cornflour and water, cooked spaghetti and food colouring. Describing words to try: rough, smooth, squelchy, squashy, tickly, lumpy, gritty, rubbery, prickly, fluffy, sticky, crunchy, slimy, bubbly, doughy, floppy


Challenge 6

Let's get creative

You might need: scissors, chalk, coloured paper, newspaper, shredded paper, cardboard boxes. This week we are challenging you to get creative - use old boxes, yoghurt pots, and toilet roll tubes to make a creation. What will you make?

Playing and reading

Play face to faceLittle boy with toys

Playing face to face at your child’s level will really help them focus on your face, which helps them learn to talk.

Play helps babies to learn about themselves and the world around them. It is an important way to develop early communication and social skills.

It doesn’t have to involve toys. Young babies enjoy physical play such as gentle tickling, bouncing or counting fingers and toes. They also like simple and repetitive games such as 'clap hands' and 'hidey-boo'.

Even if your child or baby is very young, talk to them when you are playing together or when you are out and about. You can tell them the names of things, actions and people you see. For example, saying “look at the bus”, “it’s raining” or “oh no, we’re going to get wet!”.

Talking at meal times and when out shopping are also good opportunities for children to learn new words and phrases.


Look at books together

By reading together you are not just teaching your child to read. Sharing books is a great way to help your child’s talking. Why not make books part of your everyday routine?

Babies enjoy books from a very young age. In the early stages adults don’t need to read the whole story or turn every page. Just talk about the pictures that your baby is interested in. Babies enjoy bright coloured books with different shapes and textures, photographs or lifelike illustrations with simple, repetitive text.

If you can, be face-to-face with your child so you can see what they are interested in and they can see your face when you are talking about the story.

Sharing books is an ideal opportunity to have some quiet, one-to-one time with different family members. Turn off TV, music, phones and other background distractions to help your child listen and pay attention.

In familiar stories leave a gap in the sentence so your child can fill it. e.g. “I’ll huff and I’ll…” As your child gets older, encourage turn-taking by taking turns to turn the pages or retell the story.

You can use a book in different ways, such as drawing pictures, making a collage, acting it out, or talking about the feelings of the characters.

Be slow and clear when you are talking. Don’t be afraid to use a sing-song or funny voice when acting out the voices of the characters.

Tips 3 - Share books with me.pdf[pdf] 500KB

Why not visit your local library to change books regularly? Speak to your health visitor about free books you are entitled to.

Listen and talk with me

A mum interacting with her baby Talking to your baby

You can talk to your baby before they are born. They will be able to hear the rhythms and tone of your voice, so go on - talk to your bump! As soon as a baby is born they will start to hear and respond to the noises around them. Watch carefully and soon you will see they are listening to you too! You will already be showing them important skills they will need to learn to talk.

Gradually babies start to respond, particularly to their parent’s voices and faces. Show you are listening to them by looking at them, smiling and nodding.

Spend quiet time together without the distractions of TV, radio, music or phones so you can listen and respond to each other. Try and be face to face with your child at their level so they have chance to really look and focus on your face and gestures.

They may start to copy your facial movements e.g. sticking their tongues out. Show you are listening by copying this. You can start a first ‘conversation’ this way by leaving time for your baby to stick out their tongue and then responding back.

Later you can do the same with raspberry noises and speech sounds such as ‘bbb’ and ‘mmm’. Your baby will be learning the basics of conversations and talking from you.

Tell the names of things they see, such as “look… dog… woof”. Tell them the names of things they are interested in. Talk to them about actions and emotions, such as ” oh dear, you are tired” or “granny gone, bye granny”.


When your child starts to talk

Give them plenty of time to talk. This is really hard for them! Listen to what they are trying to say, and try not to jump in too soon.

As your child starts to say a few real words, don’t worry if they don’t say things quite right at first. Listen carefully to what they are trying to say and just repeat it back the correct words. For example, if they say “bu” for bus say,  “yes…a bus”. You can also add a word or two e.g. “bus.. a big bus” or “bus.. the bus is going , bye bye bus” etc.

Try not to ask too many questions at first. Instead, tell your children the names of things, actions and descriptions of things they experience. For example, say “that’s a soft ball” rather than “what’s that?”.

As their language skills improve (roughly at 3- 5 years, but this will depend on your child’s language stage) you can ask questions that allow them to extend their thinking. For example “I wonder what will happen next?”.

I'm ready to join lots of words together.pdf[pdf] 2MB

Switch off and talk

Switch off and talk logo

There are so many electronic devices to distract us from talking to each other - phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs to name a few. Using these can be fun, but children also need lots of practise listening and talking to other people. This helps them develop good language and social skills.


Young children find it hard to concentrate on more than two things at once. TV and other background noise make it hard for them to learn. You can help your child to develop good listening and talking skills if you:

  • Spend ‘special time’ with your child talking about what you are doing or have done that day.
  • Spend time playing, reading, and singing together. This is a better way for young children to learn than electronic toys and games and cheaper as well!
  • Turn off the TV and other distractions when you are playing together. Turn off the TV if no one is watching.
  • Cut down the amount of time your child spends on a screen. For under 2s, try to limit time using a screen to less than 30 minutes a day.
  • Budge up and talk! Find time to watch programmes and play electronic games together. Talking about programmes and games can help a child’s language to develop and is better than them watching alone.
  • Make sure that programmes, games and apps are recommended for children of your child’s age.


Did you know?

The average 3-4 year old spends 27.5 hours each week watching TV, using the internet or playing electronic games. Reducing this will be support your child’s communication skills.

You can view our switch off and talk poster here [pdf] 2MB

The  leaflet can be viewed here [pdf] 2MB

Maintain your first language

Keep your language alive by talking to your child in your first language. It’s good to grow up bilingual. It will help your child’s learning. 

Be proud of who you are. Your first language is part of your identity. Your child needs it to talk to friends and family.

Speaking well in their own first language helps children learn other languages.


At home

  • Talk to your baby in your first language. Let the children learn English from English speakers and their first language from you. That way, they have the best model for each language.
  • Share books with your baby or child. You can talk about the pictures in your first language and retell the story using the pictures. Borrow dual language books from your local library.
  • Sing to your baby or child in your first language.


When your child starts at a nursery, school or Children’s Centre

  • Share some useful words with the staff. These would include words such as ‘toilet’, ‘hungry’ and ‘drink’. You can also offer to help staff translate other useful words.
  • Talk to staff about what your child likes to do at home.

Limit the use of dummies

A dummy Information about dummies can be confusing, but it is thought that using dummies too much can delay children’s speech development. The following is based on advice given by the Lullaby Trust:

Some research suggests that using a dummy when putting a baby down to sleep could reduce the risk of sudden infant death.

If you choose to use a dummy, wait until breastfeeding is well established (at up to about four weeks old). Try to keep it for sleep times only and make sure it is part of your baby’s regular sleep routine.

Stop giving a dummy to your baby between six and 12 months. Six months is when your baby will start to experiment more with making speech sounds.

If your chid does use a dummy when they are awake, take it out when they are talking - either when they are making early communication noises and babble, or later, real words.

Don’t force your baby to take a dummy or put it back if they spit it out, and don’t use a neck cord. You shouldn’t put anything sweet on the dummy or offer it during awake time.

Using an orthodontic dummy is best as it adapts to your baby’s mouth shape.

You can speak to your Children’s Centre team or health visitor about using dummies and about ways to use dummies less.

Signs and symbols

What are signs and symbols?

  • A sign is an action or a gesture that you make with your hands, body and face as you speak. This picture shows you how to sign listen.

Sign language for listen

  • A symbol is a picture that you use to help communicate. This is the makaton symbol for listening Makaton for listen
  • Signs and symbols do not replace talking – they are always used at the same time as you talk.


Why do we use signs and symbols?

  • Signs and symbols help children’s attention and listening skills
  • They help children to understand and learn new words and concepts.
  • They help children to get their message across.
  • They help children’s independence.


How do signs and symbols help?

  • They are visual, so help children who like to learn visually.
  • They last longer than spoken words, to give children more time to process and understand what has been said.
  • They draw attention to important key words they hear.
  • Adults slow down their talking when they use them, so children have more time to process and understand what has been said.
  • Using them with all children means all children and adults understand and use them so they can talk and communicate together.

You can find more information on signs and symbols on the Makaton website.


A baby putting its finger in its mouth Everybody produces saliva. We need saliva to help us chew and swallow food, and to keep our mouths clean and healthy. Most people swallow up to 1000 times each day to remove saliva from their mouth. Children who dribble do not produce more saliva than others, but may have difficulties in coordinating the movements of head, neck and mouth to swallow this saliva.

Children learn to control their saliva when they have learned how to coordinate their tongue and lips without effort.


You can help by:

  • encouraging your child to sit and stand well with their head up
  • encouraging your child to put their lips together (say mmm) and swallow
  • pat your child’s mouth and chin dry – do not wipe as this stimulates more saliva
  • don’t allow your child to suck/chew dummies, fingers or other items
  • brushing their teeth and regular visits to the dentist
  • encouraging to pat their own mouth dry with a tissue


Children need time to learn saliva control. Don’t worry! Your child will have good days and bad days. You may find that...

  • concentrating or learning a new task
  • feeling tired, excited, poorly or having a cold
  • some medicines
  • strong or spicy foods
  • leaning forwards or having their head down

…may make it more difficult for your child to control saliva.



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