Learning to Talk – How can you help?

It’s really important that children learn to talk and listen. They need to communicate with people around them, to learn, to make friends and have fun.

Some children learn to talk a little quicker, others will take a little longer but they should all reach certain stages at certain times.

Learning to talk doesn’t happen by accident, it needs you to make it happen.

Parents are the best people to help their children learn. Helping your child learn to talk can be as easy as talking, listening and playing with them whenever you can.

  • talk to your baby, tell them what you are doing, where you are going. They are listening and taking it all in
  • sing songs and rhymes, especially those with actions and lots of repetition
  • look at and talk about picture books.

By 1 year old, babies are making ‘talking’ noises and babbling.

  • copy your baby when they are babbling, take turns and ‘have a conversation’.

By 18 months, babies will usually have about 20 words; they will ‘baby talk’ and understand some simple words and short phrases.

  • share books with your baby, look at family photographs
  • ┬áspend time outside together, talking, listening and exploring – there’s so much to talk about.
  • if your child is pointing at something, tell them what it is.


At 2 years old your toddler will be exploring the world around them. Their understanding of words and phrases will grow really quickly. They will begin to put 2 or 3 words together and ask simple questions eg “what that?”

  • repeat words and expand on what your child says eg “more juice”, “juice please”, “juice gone”
  • share books with flaps and different textures, take time to look at the pictures and describe them
  • sing action songs and rhymes.


By 3 years old your child will be saying lots more words and talking in longer sentences. It’s a really exciting time; children will be asking lots of questions to help them find out about the world around them

  • share books, talk about the story and characters
  • if children say words that aren’t clear repeat what they say using the correct word
  • allow children time to talk and listen
  • talk about things you can hear eg aeroplanes, birds
  • put the phone/tablet down and talk/listen to your child
  • save the dummy for bedtime; children cannot talk properly with a dummy in their mouth.


By 4 years old children use lots of words and sentences. They use talk to make friends and find out information. They can describe significant events that have happened. They enjoy make believe play and listen to longer stories. They understand words that describe colour, number and time.

  • spend time talking about the day. Maybe you could ask your child to “tell me one thing you enjoyed doing today”
  • play with words – rhyming words, silly words, alliteration (words beginning with the same letters)
  • play word games, describing objects and people or characters and take turns in guessing.

There’s lots we can all do to help children learn to talk and listen. Have fun!