Playing and reading

Play face to face

Little boy with toysPlaying 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.

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