It's time to talk!

Have you ever tried to learn a new language? Or travelled to another country where you couldn’t communicate with the people around you – even just for the basic things like food, drink and what you wanted to do. This experience gives us a little insight into the daily battle for our children, especially the younger ones, who are literally learning a new language by being exposed to new words, phrases or sentences each and every day!


Speech and language skills develop through every day interactions with people who model the words and rules of language. Without language children can struggle to develop in other key learning and development areas, especially literacy and numeracy. 10-15 per cent of children in the UK start school with language delay, in some areas it can be much higher than this. Speech, language and communication usually follows a typical pattern of development, the grid on below may be useful for you to see patterns, sounds and typical ‘norms’.

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When we communicate with people we like them to observe, wait and listen and we tend to prefer conversations where the other person follows our lead, takes time to see we are interested in, gives us a chance to talk and listens to what we have to say. Can we honestly say that we always follow these rules when talking to our children? So, remember make the time and when trying to start a conversation with your child think about:

  • What they are interested in?

  • What they are trying to tell you?

  • What they are doing?

  • Remember non-verbal communication.

Remember being face to face to communicate is key and really helpful for children. Adjust your language to your child’s level of development. This does not mean creating new / baby words or babble for things or we have to teach children twice. For example, a ‘dog’ is a ‘dog’ not a ‘doggie’ or a ‘woof, woof’. Again, reflect back to that new language, how tricky would it be hearing many different and varied words for the very same thing? Language is easier to learn if we ourselves follow the rules of language.


Try to avoid words such as ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘one’ and always use real words and descriptions to help children to learn this new and rich language. As well as making your language easy to understand, there are other opportunities to develop a child’s language when they tell you something. When a child tells you something, you have the perfect opportunity to expand on what the child has said. Use your child’s words but add some of your own:

If a child says ‘hands’ you can say ‘wash hands’

If a child says ‘wash hands’ you can say ‘wash dirty hands’

Children love to know that you are listening and this technique helps to show this, but also enables you to provide new language skills. If a child’s grammar is incorrect, you can repeat with the correct language model without correcting them.

If a child says ‘woof, woof’ you can say ‘that’s right, it’s a dog’

If a child says ‘gwandwad’ you can say ‘that’s right, Grandad is here’

Have special times with your children where the TV, mobile phones and tablets are switched off, remove the distractions and have quality time making memories. Take the dummy out in the day, use at bedtime or when they are tired or upset, but a dummy can impact on your child’s speech and language development. It is a special time when your child starts to talk, something you’ll remember. So when you can take the time to talk to your child. Sing nursery rhymes, read books or tell them about your day and what you are doing. You will feel like a talking story book but narrating the world around you will help bring their surroundings to life.

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When talking with your child, give your child time to:

  • Initiate a conversation

  • Communicate with you without being rushed, distracted or stopped part way through

  • Think, process and respond...try counting to 10 before asking another question or prompting for an answer

Sarah Davy