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Early communication skills, such as: looking, joint attention, taking turns and listening are regarded as the foundation to speech, language and communication development. During everyday activities, the way you communicate and interact with your child can help them practice these early communication skills.

  • Animations 

    Below you can view our Top Ten Tips for Talking and our Language Pyramid, which have been developed with information from our Parent Universal Workshop. To accompany the animations, researchers in language development at the University of Leeds have compiled some of the evidence that supports our advice. We hope that by providing the science behind the tips, this information will help parents and practitioners to understand and remember the ideas, and put them into practice more easily. 

    Introduction - The language development pyramid


    Tip 1 - Get down to your child's level


    Tip 2 - Comment on what you're both looking at

    Tip 3 - Model words correctly

    Tip 4 - Dummies


    Tip 5 - Give choices


    Tip 6 - Reduce screen time


    Tip 7 - Share books and sing nursery rhymes


    Tip 8 - Follow your child's lead in play


    Tip 9 - Playing is fun


    Tip 10 - Questions and comments


    Full animation


    Click Summary of the supporting evidence for our Top Ten Tips for Talking animations for more information. 

    1. Know your child and alter the environment – for example, think about distractions such as the TV, comfort, motivation, understanding and interest – make communicating as easy as possible.
    2. Doing things together is important for learning – children will learn most effectively when their day consists of a combination of both child-led and adult-led activities.
    3. Playing is fun – develop special time, 5-10 minutes daily of quiet time (not active play) where you play with your child on a 1:1 basis at home, for example, sharing a book, talking about their day.
    4. Model words correctly (expand rather than correct) – listen and acknowledge what your child has said, add in any missing words, use the correct pronunciation of sounds, this reinforces to the child that you have listened to what they have said, it also gives the child the opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation of the word, with additional language to extend their sentences and vocabulary, for example, “I goed park yesterday and jump wet”, “yes you went to the park yesterday and you jumped in puddles”
    5. Match language to their level and talk about their interests – e.g. talk about what they have just built on Minecraft. Talking about what is interesting to them increases motivation.
    6. Give choices – give your child a choice of two items to encourage communication, would you like an apple or an orange? Would you like to play on the swing or the slide?
    7. Reduce / limit screen time – this includes TV, smart phones, tablets and the use of games on consoles. Research shows that screen time does NOT replace you talking with your child.
    8. Share books and talk about the story with them afterwards. Talk about what they like reading, e.g. fiction v. non-fiction and who their favourite character is and why.
    9. Reduce questions – questions can be hard to understand and respond to, e.g. what did you do at school today? Try the five finger rule, e.g. for every question have four comments to back it up
    10. Encourage communication and enjoy interactions! Try to reduce pressure on your child talking, rather accept any communication attempts and encourage these interactions by allowing them time to communicate their needs – language and speech will come later.
  • To accompany the Top 10 Tips for Talking videos and posters, researchers in language development at the University of Leeds have compiled some of the evidence that supports our advice. We hope that by providing the science behind the tips, this information will help parents and practitioners to understand and remember the ideas and put them into practice more easily. 

    Introduction - The language development pyramid

    Good language skills depend on abilities that children develop long before they start to talk. Research shows that babies whose parents are more responsive go on to develop larger vocabularies and reach their language milestones earlier (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2014). For example, by taking turns with their babies when they are cooing and babbling, caregivers actively help their child to look, listen, and learn the basic structure of conversation (Ferjan Ramírez et al., 2020). Using eye contact, the baby’s name, and child-directed speech (also known as parentese or babytalk) helps them understand that you want to engage with them. Breast- or bottle-feeding is another pre-linguistic form of turn-taking as babies alternate between actively sucking and then resting, which synchronises with the movements of the person feeding them (Csibra, 2010). As babies grow, play is a great opportunity to continue these crucial back-and-forth games, for example taking turns to add blocks when building a tower or stacking cups.

    Tip 1 - Get down to your child's level

    Eye contact is a powerful tool in language development. When an adult and their 8-month-old looked at each other while communicating, their brainwaves synchronised and the baby made more vocalisations (Leong et al., 2017). This means that just by sharing eye contact, the infants in this study communicated more. 

    Eye contact is also key in establishing joint attention, which is when two people both look at the same object and share it socially. Babies start engaging in joint attention between 8 and 15 months of age. They use it to direct attention by looking at something they want then back to an adult’s face to indicate nonverbally, Mummy! Could you pass me that super-exciting toy over there? In this way, they begin to understand that language can be used to change the world. There is a wealth of research showing that early joint attention skills drive vocabulary growth (e.g. Farrant & Zubrick, 2012), though note that word learning can and does proceed without it (Akhtar & Gernsbacher, 2007).

    Tip 2 - Comment on what you're both looking at

    Repetition of new words provides the experience that young children need to learn and remember new words (Horst & Samuelson, 2008; Mather & Plunkett, 2009). Each time a child hears the new word they build up knowledge about it, for example its precise meaning, its pronunciation (and how that might vary), and which words it can combine with. Eventually, the child comes to understand the word across contexts, and ultimately produces the word themselves. 

    Sharing storybooks is a great way of building up exposure to new words, and we know that children love to hear the same story or joke over and over again. Research shows that children learned more new words during shared book reading if they were read the same stories repeatedly than if they were read different stories that had the same number of words (Horst et al., 2011).

    Tip 3 - Model words correctly

    Babies and children thrive on input, and they will look to you as one of their main sources of language. Don’t worry about using the ‘right’ accent or a particular language – children just want to hear their caregiver’s voice.   

    Repeating a child’s phrases with subtle correction or with a few extra words are common techniques used by caregivers, and are very helpful for the child. These are known as recasts and expansions. For example, Him need juice might be recast by an adult as a question; “Does he need some juice?” Recasts and expansions are effective ways to support many aspects of the language development of typically- and atypically-developing children (Cleave et al., 2015).

    Research also shows that children benefit more from hearing full, grammatically correct sentences, rather than simpler phrases or single words (Hoff & Naigles, 2002). Using full sentences helps children identify the key words what these words refer to (Monaghan & Mattock, 2012).

    Tip 4 – Dummies

    Many parents and SLT professionals assume that dummies impede speech development, reasoning that excessive and prolonged dummy use limits children’s early vocalisations and reduces opportunities to talk. Likewise, SLTs have traditionally observed that in rare cases where school-aged children continue to use dummies, there have been significant articulatory disorders and delays which are difficult to resolve. However, many of these claims are not based on large-scale data, meaning that the existing peer-reviewed evidence base for a causal link between dummy use and speech development is weak (see Nelson, 2012 for a review).

    Against dummy use, a greater incidence of inadequate lip tone and tongue position during speech has been attributed to dummy sucking (Verrestro et al., 2006). A retrospective study revealed that 30% of the children in a sample who used dummies developed speech problems, compared with only 12% of those who did not (McNally, 1997). Another study found that dummy use had a negative impact on speech in 3-5 year old children, though only if the dummy had been used for more than three years (Barbosa et al., 2009). 

    In contrast, several studies find no significant impact of prolonged dummy use on speech articulation (e.g. Shotts et al., 2008). Similarly, no association between a history of oral sucking and the presence and severity of phonological impairment was found (Baker et al., 2018). Some researchers believe the connection between dummy use and speech problems may be secondary to the increased incidence of otitis media in dummy users, though it’s worth noting that the link between otitis media and long term speech and language outcomes is also unclear, e.g. Roberts et al. (2004).

    To date, scientific studies show no strong or consistent association between dummy use and speech development. Prolonged dummy use may negatively impact speech development, but further research is needed before evidence-based recommendations can be made. However, while the individual vs population-level findings are inconsistent, many practitioners would agree that a child’s opportunities for articulating words correctly and engaging in conversation are reduced if she or he frequently uses a dummy during the day. Therefore, reducing dummy use may be recommended by a Speech and Language Therapist. 

    Tip 5 - Give choices  

    Offering a child two items, e.g. “Do you want a banana or an orange?” while they can see both is a great opportunity for learning. First, children are able to link the words they hear to the object they can see – a free and easy vocabulary lesson! But the magic really happens when they meet new words and objects. If a child hears a familiar word, e.g. banana and a new one, e.g. sushi while they can see an object they know (the banana) and one they’re not familiar with (the sushi), they work out that the new word must relate to the new object. Hey presto, they’ve learned a new word. This is one way that children expand their vocabulary; psychologists call it mutual exclusivity (Markman & Wachtel, 1988).

    Giving choices is also a great opportunity for kids to practice their understanding of questions, and – providing you give them time to respond – allows them the space to take their conversational turn. 

    Tip 6 - Reduce screen time

    Screen time can be a great source of anxiety for parents, and it can be hard to navigate the evidence about how screens affect children’s development. It’s fairly clear that extreme amounts of screen use can be damaging to children’s development. It’s worth thinking about what children might not be doing while they’re spending time on screens. We know that children learn to communicate through interactions with other people during the early years. More screen time means less time spent interacting with those they love.

    Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on screen use have been updated to acknowledge that video chat can facilitate social connection with distant relatives. The AAP recommend that screen use other than video chatting should be avoided for children younger than 18 months, should be used only with parental facilitation for children aged 18-24 months, and should be limited to a maximum of one hour per day for the over-2s (Council on Communications and Media 2016). Reports indicate that families in the UK regularly exceed these levels (Cheung et al., 2017; Taylor et al., 2018). 

    The concept of ‘screen time’ itself might be oversimplistic. Except in extreme cases, focusing on the amount of screen use is unhelpful. Instead, research is starting to look at the context of screen use and the content that children encounter when using digital technologies – factors that are likely to have a greater impact than quantity alone. For example, educational programmes and co-viewing are positively associated with children’s language skills (Linebarger et al., 2014; Madigan et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2017).

    While some studies show that greater screen time is associated with poorer communication, and motor / problem solving skills, they can’t prove that screens are directly responsible for this (Madigan et al., 2020). It’s more likely that screen use is linked to other influences such as socioeconomic background, and frequency of reading, sleep, and physical activity. Researchers’ next steps are to disentangle these factors to really understand the best ways to support families, including how to have healthy relationships with screens.

    Tip 7 - Share books and sing nursery rhymes

    Shared reading helps children develop a wide range of early language skills. These include vocabulary, understanding sounds and grammar, storytelling and conversation skills, inferencing, and future reading ability (see Noble et al., 2019 for a review). It helps with joint attention (see Tip 1), imagination, curiosity, bonding, and social and emotional development. It also helps children to connect with other languages they are learning. Studies show that children who read regularly with an adult in the preschool years learn language faster, enter school with a larger vocabulary, and become more successful readers in school (Bus et al., 1995; Mol et al., 2008). 

    It’s never too early to introduce children to reading. Visit the library and let them choose the books they’re interested in. Children love to hear the same stories and rhymes over and over again (tedious as it can sometimes be for adults!). Predictability helps them feel secure and the repetition helps them learn new words effectively.

    Tip 8 - Follow your child's lead in play

    The way that caregivers respond to children has a major effect on their language development. Noticing what a baby or child is attending to, and then talking to them about it boosts language development – and this effect can last throughout childhood. Talking about what the child is focusing on is called contingent talk by psychologists. Studies show that this helps word learning in young children (Donnelan et al., 2020; McGillion et al., 2017). If you tune into what your child is doing, for example feeding a doll, and then say “oh, you’re feeding the dolly”, there’s a good chance they will learn something not only about what the words mean, but also how they are used in a sentence. Before they are 18 months old or so, children might struggle to redirect their attention to things that they’re not already looking at or holding, so it’s more helpful if you talk to them about the here-and-now at this age. Your baby will help you with this by pointing and babbling.

    Tip 9 - Playing is fun

    Some quiet time with a child away from the TV and other distractions is one of the best things caregivers can do for their development. Look at a book together and talk about the pictures. Play with a favourite toy and comment on what’s happening. Many of the basic building blocks for language come for free when you’re engaging in this way. For example, exposure to new words and their relationship with the world, the structure of sentences, joint attention, and turn-taking. Even five minutes of talk and play will increase the number of words a child hears, which amounts to a huge amount of extra language over the months and years. The more words a child hears, the greater their own language skills will become (Hart & Risley, 1995; Rowe, 2012). Just chatting is enough - research shows that informal language play is more effective for children’s language skills than corrective feedback (Dale et al., 2015).

    Tip 10 – Using Questions and Comments

    Child-directed speech typically contains a lot of questions, so it’s important to get the most out of these opportunities, for example by asking open questions and by giving children enough time to answer. One study found that 31% of mothers’ utterances to their children were questions (CameronFaulkner et al., 2003). That means that a child living in a language-rich environment will probably hear about 2000 questions every day – including many that the adult already knows the answer to! (Yu et al., 2019).

    A large body of research shows us that two of the most important aspects of caregiver-talk are turntaking and language complexity. Questions are a powerful way of achieving both of these things. Parents who were trained to ask more open-ended questions had longer conversations with their four year-old children that included more diverse vocabulary (Leech & Rowe, 2020). Questions that begin with Who, What, When Where, and Why are especially useful for eliciting a greater amount of, and more complex language from children (Cristofaro & Tamis-LeMonda, 2011; Vernon-Feagans et al, 2020), both in the moment, and in their growth of language going forward (Tompkins et al., 2017). Particularly compelling is the finding that the overall quantity of talk (in this case by fathers to their two year-old children) did not affect children’s vocabulary or verbal reasoning skills, but fathers’ specific use of wh- questions relates to both types of language skills in their children (Rowe et al., 2017). Positive links have also been found with children’s own grammatical sophistication, for example if a 1-3 year-old hears lots of questions like “Are you going to eat that?” or “Is it raining outside?”, they are more likely to use ‘are’ and ‘is’ correctly themselves (Hoff-Ginsberg, 1986; Newport, 1977). Caregiver questions have also been linked to children’s achievement at nursery, and to their school readiness (Reynolds et al, 2018).  

    So although posing wh-questions to children can challenge them, it elicits responses that help them develop the critical skills of word building and verbal reasoning. It is never too early to start using questions: children whose mothers use a higher proportion of wh- questions at 11 months went on to have higher language scores when they were two years old (Lindenger et al., 2010).  

    Caregivers should also remember to give their children time to respond to questions. One study found that when elementary school teachers extended the time that they waited from one to five seconds, children increased the number, length, and sophistication of their responses (Rowe, 1974). These moments of silence can give the child valuable time to formulate their responses and can nurture the pure gold of longer conversations. On top of that, the five finger rule can help increase the language that children hear.

    Dr Catherine Davies, Associate Professor, Leeds Child Development Unit, University of Leeds.

    Sara Winfield, Specialist Children’s Speech and Language Therapist, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust.


    If you would like a copy of the supporting document of evidence, including references, please email Andrea Arnold at 

  • The Language Development Pyramid is used to help explain how speech and language are supported by the development of other foundation skills.

    Click here to view the Language Development Pyramid

    Language can develop in different ways. Analytical language processing starts with learning to use single words and gradually linking words and adding more, while gestalt language processing starts with whole phrases – sometimes called echolalia – and gradually develops to be more specific to situations and broken down into individual words to form more spontaneous language. Both ways of acquiring language are valid and natural, and it is thought that most people may use a combination of both types when learning language, relying on one more than the other in individual ways.

    Speech, language, and communication skills are complex, and difficulties can impact on many other areas of learning and development.

  • Children and babies learn to communicate when they have a means (a way) of communicating, opportunities to communicate and reasons to communicate.  They also need adults who are responsive to how they communicate.

    Speech and language therapy might focus on supporting the means, the reasons or the opportunities, and most likely, a combination of all of these.


    Means to communicate

    Communication can be verbal, such as babbling, making noises, saying words and sentences, or non-verbal, such as crying, facial expressions, showing emotions, pointing, signs, gestures, pictures or symbols.  It is important for all adults in the child’s environment to be aware of the child’s preferred method of communication whether it is verbal and/or non-verbal. 

    We could support the means of communication by teaching new words, or by introducing an alternative method if talking is difficult.


    Reasons to communicate

    We all need a reason to communicate. The first reasons that young children usually communicate are being hungry, tired or happy or feeling poorly.  Later, they learn to communicate to convey a range of intentions, for example, to make requests, reject, comment or share an interest. They could do this non-verbally and/or verbally, for example by shaking the head and by saying, “No!”

    Adults can provide lots of reasons to help their child communicate by creating little obstacles and then waiting and looking expectantly for the child to indicate what they need or want: for example by placing favourite toys out of reach, giving the child a paintbrush but pause before giving out the paints, giving them half of an orange/biscuit or by not filling the glass to the top with milk/water. Only use this strategy when your child is developing a means of communication, otherwise it could be frustrating for them, and if they find it hard to communicate, then make sure to help them out and try again another time.


    Opportunities to communicate

    The child needs opportunities to communicate with others in order to develop their communication skills. It is important that adults give the child time to respond to and to initiate interaction. Where possible, try to ensure that others do not communicate for the child.  It’s easy to interpret what a child wants when we care for them, for example, ‘he wants a drink’, but talking for them can mean that the child’s opportunity to communicate has been taken away. Creating opportunities to talk by not helping can make a huge difference!

    This video from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust explains means, reasons and opportunities – the things which children need to communicate

  • Why is copying important?

    Children need to learn to copy so they can learn new skills from other people.

    Learning to copy things they can see and hear helps children to develop communication skills such as gestures and speech.

    Children often need to see or hear things many times before they are able to copy them.

    How to develop a child’s copying skills

    Join the child when they’re playing with a favourite toy.

    Copy what they do with your own set of toys.

    When the child notices that you are copying them, change your play slightly and encourage them to copy you.

    Children find it easier to copy things they can see rather than things they can hear. Start by practising copying with toys and actions before copying with speech.

    Activities to try:

    Toy Bricks

    Start by copying what the child does with the bricks. If (s)he bangs 2 bricks together you do it too.

    Then try something slightly different with the bricks, for example, hold them up above your head and bang them, then low near the floor or bang them on different surfaces.

    Copying Actions

    Play games like ‘How big are you? …. So big”- raising your arms in the air. Encourage the child to copy.

    Sing or say songs and rhymes that have actions. Encourage the child to copy the actions. Help them to move their hands or pause to see if they do the action to make you continue.

    Action Songs

    Some favourite action songs:

    • Incy Wincy Spider
    • Wind the Bobbin Up
    • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
    • Row Row Row your boat

    Copying faces

    Make faces in the mirror together. Copy the child and encourage them to copy you by making a face then waiting.

    Copying sounds

    Make funny sounds such as raspberries, wobbling your tongue from side-to-side or saying “boo”.

    Make sounds to go with play and pictures, such as animal sounds, “nee naw” for a fire engine, “brrrm” for a car, “tick tock” for a clock.

    Copy any sounds that the child makes.

  • Turn taking is the basis for two way interaction i.e. conversation. Children need to learn to take turns with everyday activities before moving on to turn taking with sounds and then words. Here are some activities to develop turn taking skills

    Why is turn-taking important?

    Interaction with another person is two-way. We take turns a lot during an interaction. This may be through words, gestures, body language etc. The majority of games and group activities involve turn taking.  It is essential to learn how to take turns to develop communication skills and be able to interact and have fun with other people.

    How to help

    Switch off or move right away from the TV, radio, phone, iPad, computer.

    Remove general distractions from the room or area– this may include other toys.

    Watch to see what the child wants to do/play with.

    If the child has not chosen toys, sit opposite them and copy their actions or sounds. When you have copied the child a number of times try to incorporate pausing into the game, to encourage the child to wait for you. If you are copying actions, label whose turn it is, for example, ‘Jake’s turn’, ‘Daddy’s turn’.

    If the child has chosen a toy, initially spend time watching them. If the child involves you in any way, for example by looking at you, try and join in with the child’s play by quickly having a turn in their game and saying whose turn it is, for example, ‘Mummy’s/Mrs Smith’s turn’, ‘Josh’s turn’.

    Try to increase the number of times you are able to have another turn.

    Gradually increase the number of people who are taking turns.

    Once the child has the idea of taking turns try to develop this into other games. Some ideas might be,

    • Play Peek a Boo or hiding. Hide behind a cushion or your hands and take turns to say “boo!”.
    • Build a tower of bricks or stacking cups. Take turns to add bricks to the tower. Have fun knocking it over.
    • Roll a ball or a car to each other. Increase the amount of time your child will sit to take turns.

    Activities to try

    • rolling a ball to each other
    • building a tower together
    • jumping together
    • banging a drum – start with a beater each and then develop to having one beater to share.
    • taking turns to post pictures or shapes or to put in a piece of an inset puzzle
    • skittles or fishing games
    • colouring activities
    • people games - play tickling games, chase, rough and tumble. Take turns to be the chaser or tickler. Occasionally pause and wait for your child to initiate their turn.
    • copying games - take turns to copy each other’s sounds/words/funny faces/actions e.g. ahh, beep, babble and facial expressions.
    • hiding games - take turns to hide and find favourite toys under cushions, beds, chairs etc.
    • music games - use shakers, drums, pans and wooden spoons to take turns making noises. Encourage your child to wait for their turn. Have fun making loud and quiet sounds
  • There are lots of activities that you can do at home to encourage listening skills, which are important for language and speech sound development, and for early interaction skills.

    Activities to try

    Play hide and seek with noisy toys – hide a sound-making toy under an object in your room, can your child find it?

    Games with “stop” and “go” can be really good for listening – try this with games outdoors, or with cars or musical toys indoors. Use “ready, steady….” – can they wait for “go!”?

    Listen to things around you at home, or when you go for a walk – make a point of saying what you can hear.

    Sound making toys - use rattles, squeaky toys, shakers [which you could make], bells, etc

    • Start with two of these that sound different from each other.  Put them in front of your child.  First, you make a noise with one, then encourage your child to make the same one.  Take turns like this until your child knows how to play this game.  Next, cover the two toys, so that your child only hears the sound.  S/he must now listen to the sound and then make the same sound when you uncover the toys for him/her. 
    • When your child is good at this game, try it with three noisemakers.  S/he now has to listen more carefully as it is more difficult to select a sound from a choice of three, than from a choice of two. 
    • Once you have a lot of success with a choice of three, instead of making one noise, make two noises.  Your child must now make the same two noises in the same order when you uncover the toys.  This may be quite difficult, as s/he will have to listen very hard and remember more sounds.

    Make sound pots, using used margarine tubs or cardboard boxes.  Hide a small toy in each.  Shake a pot close to your ear.  Make sure that you look interested and excited.  Shake it near your child for him/her to listen.  Then ask if s/he wants you to open it.  When s/he signals to you that s/he does, let him/her open it.  Have a little chat about what s/he’s found.  Then put it back and try the same activity again with the next tub.  Try and use about four sound making pots.  Keep changing what you put inside and talk about how it sounds (e.g. it sounds noisy/quiet).

    Try to carry out these activities for a few minutes each day, and make them lots of fun to keep them motivating for your child.

    Reducing background noise can really help with listening if your child finds it difficult, and try to keep language simple to make it easier to understand. 

    It is really useful to be specific when you give praise – say “good listening!” instead of good boy and so on. 

    It can be difficult but try to show the behaviour that you want yourself too – if they talk to you, stop and show you are listening!

  • Learning to make noises and sounds is an important stage in learning to communicate and talk. Sounds can carry a lot of meaning, such as animal or transport noises – these are called symbolic sounds. Children may use sounds to express themselves before they use words, and might find these easier to copy than words.

    • Play Peek-a-Boo using hats, scarves, sunglasses or clothing when dressing – say “boo!” when you appear!
    • Copy the sounds/vocalisations the child makes such as coughs and yawns as well as babble. Pause and give them time to repeat the sound back and then do it again.
    • Choose an exciting toy, such as a pop-up toy, the child likes. When they vocalise, make the toy work.
    • Play with balloons, blowing them up and letting them go. Copy the noise they make.
    • Use sounds in play, e.g. “mmm” when eating, “ahhh” when hugging a teddy, “oh-oh” when toy cars crash, animal noises, “brrm” for cars, “knock, knock” on a door.
    • Make silly faces and noises in the mirror.
    • Use microphones, boxes, tins, cardboard tubes which echo or make interesting sounds when you vocalise into them.
    • Pop bubble wrap or bubbles in the bath or water tray and say “pop”.
    • Singing action songs which have fun sounds in, you could try,
      • “Row the Boat”- “if you see a crocodile don’t forget to scream! Aargh!
      • “Five Fat Sausages”- “one went Pop!
  • Communication is not just “talking”. A large amount of all of our communication is non-verbal, and communication may start with an attempt at a word, a noise, a gesture, eye pointing, signing or any other attempt to get a message across.

    Even if your child is not ready to say words yet, you can still encourage them to communicate! Accepting a noise or a gesture as communication and responding to it helps to teach your child about the cause-and-effect nature of communicating – if I do something, I get something back. This rewards your child for communicating, and makes them want to do it again!

    A great place to start is encouraging your child to show they want more of something they are enjoying. 

    Find motivating activities that your child enjoys doing with you – follow their lead and join in with what they enjoy.

    Simply pause in the middle and wait to allow them to show you they want to continue.

    Show on your face that you are interested and waiting!

    Accept any attempt at communication…

    it could be a gesture such as reaching, or pointing, or a Makaton sign…

    …and respond as if it was a spoken word – give some more!

    Model simple language alongside – you can say ”more” or “again” or “go!”, but it is also important to use the word for what it is e.g. “bubbles!” to help develop understanding.

    Activities to try:

    Tickles – tickle with lots of giggles and smiles, then hold your hands away but ready – wait for them to prompt the next go!

    Peekaboo games – hide under a blanket and pop out! Hold the blanket up but don’t hide  - wait for them to prompt you!    

    Bubbles – blow one lot of bubbles, then hold up the wand but don’t blow yet…!

    Snacks – only give one crisp, or raisin…and wait!

    Bricks – start building, then hold all the bricks…

    Action songs – start singing a familiar song, then pause…    

    Top tips!

    • Only wait a short time. If they don’t respond with an action, accept looking at the interesting object as a prompt.
    • Get attention back by taking a big breath, or making a small noise or an “ooh!”
    • It can be hard not to do things that you know your child enjoys – but if you do it for them straight away every time, they don’t need to communicate!!
    • These activities help children to learn to take part in sequences of interaction with others, and learn to take turns – both are fundamentals of communication.

    Once your child is able to request more, they are ready to try asking for things they want in different ways.

    Offer choices – hold two objects out for your child to make a choice. Reaching for the one they want is an early form of communication and a good step towards more communicating! If this is difficult, start with a favourite object and one that they don’t like.

    Place favourite toys in sight but out of reach Wait for your child to request the toy by looking, pointing, reaching or vocalising before giving it to them.

  • Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order.

    For those who have experienced the frustration of being unable to communicate meaningfully or effectively, Makaton really can help. Makaton takes away that frustration and enables individuals to connect with other people and the world around them. This opens up all kinds of possibilities.  Today, over 100,000 children and adults use Makaton symbols and signs to communicate.

    Makaton uses signs, symbols and speech to help people communicate. Signs are used, always alongside speech, in spoken word order. This helps provide extra clues about what someone is saying.

    Your Speech and Language Therapist will be able to discuss with you whether Makaton will be helpful for your child and will demonstrate some signs to start with. It is important to access a course with a trained tutor to learn how to use Makaton. Ask your speech and language therapist about how to book onto a course.

    Some frequently asked questions:

    Is Makaton difficult to learn?

    You can create a personalised vocabulary for your child, starting with just a small number of signs, and could add more in as soon as you and your child are ready.

    The training manuals have pictures of each of the signs that are taught, so you can return to them as a reminder whenever you need to.

    There are lots of resources available on the internet that can help you remember the signs that you have learnt on the courses (see the links box). 

    Will Makaton stop my child using their voice to talk?

    Makaton will not stop a child from talking, as long as speech is always used alongside the signs. Research shows that using Makaton actually helps to stimulate vocalisation and words. Makaton is often used as a temporary alternative when talking is difficult, and children usually drop the use of signs when they can use spoken words to communicate.

    Would we still use Makaton even though our child has started to speak?

    Yes – research shows that using signing alongside speech supports the development of speech and interactive skills, and can also help with the intelligibility of unclear speech.

    Makaton helps to support understanding language, and learning new vocabulary. It can be used alongside other speech and language therapy interventions to support the development of expressive language, grammar and literacy skills.

    Please use these links for more useful information about Makaton: 

  • Verbal routines can support language development, because you say them the same way, every time, lots of times!  Children need lots of repetition to understand and use new words.

    Using the same words, the same way, every time you do a specific activity helps these words become familiar, and fun, to join in with.  Try starting a routine and pausing to allow your child time to complete it.

    As language develops, add new words to your routines.

    Common examples of verbal routines:

    Ready steady go!

    1, 2, 3 …. wheeeee!!!

    Saying hiya or bye bye

    Singing action rhymes

    Ideas for morning routines:

    Wakey wakey rise and shine!

    It’s time for breakfast!

    Let’s get dressed!

    Trousers on, socks on

    Ideas for bedtime routines

    Up, up, up the stairs!

    Splash splash it’s bath time!

    It’s time for bed

    Night night sleep tight

    Verbal routines can be used when you play and have fun together:

    Bubbles….. pop!!!

    Beep beep!!!! Oh no …. Crash!!!!

    I’m coming …… peekaboo!!!

    Tickles are coming!!!

    Lots of books have repetitive language and can be used to create verbal routines too.

  • Some children have started to talk, but don’t use their words very often. If we are anxious for our child to speak, we often try really hard to help them.

    But try not to ……

    Ask your child to “say ….”. This could teach a child to wait to be told to talk. It is good for children to learn to initiate (start) a communication themselves.

    Ask too many questions. This can add pressure, and makes communicating less fun.

    Correct if they make a mistake. Focus on the message they tried to say instead.

    Instead you could try:

    Commenting. Talk about what they are doing, looking at and interested in – use language at their level so you are modelling what they might say next time.

    Pausing for them to communicate – waiting can be really powerful! It seems the opposite of what we   want – to talk less – and it is natural to fill in the gaps, but allowing plenty of time to process language is important. Sometimes children can need up to ten seconds to process something said   to them!

    Motivating them – create a need to ask for things by not giving them straight away, or create chances to tell you about things that are different by making small changes to familiar routines. Never withhold things until they communicate – simply create the opportunity for them to try, but if they can’t, give them what they need and try again next time.

    Offer choices – do you want juice or milk?

    Enjoying what they try to say Showing your enjoyment rewards their communication, and makes your child want to do it more!

    Top tip!! Use specific praise to help them understand – “good talking!”, “good asking”, so next time you say “ask me”, they understand what this means.

    It’s easy to do things for your child when you know what they want – but this can mean they don’t need to talk. Creating more opportunities to talk will encourage them to practice and increase their talking.

    Always allow plenty of time for your child to communicate before doing something for them.

    What if it doesn’t work…?

    If you have waited, and they don’t take the opportunity, or they become frustrated, do give things to them and use modelling instead – simply say a word they could have said. Keep trying!!!

    Top tip! Focus on encouraging words like the names for things first, so they say what they mean – this helps you to understand so your child gets more success. Words like “please” and “thank you” can be added when your child is using more words.

    Create opportunities by waiting for communication

    • Pause at a crucial moment in rough and tumble games, e.g. swinging, chasing or tickling and wait to allow time for your child to encourage you to continue. Accept any form of communication as a prompt to do it again!
    • Offer them an empty cup or bowl and wait…
    • Offer them paper without crayons and wait…
    • Offer them a drum without a stick and wait…
    • Offer them a tub with a tight lid and wait…
    • Go to the door or the fridge but wait before opening it
    • Put them into a swing and wait…
    • Walk into a dark room and wait…
    • After a bath, hold up a towel and wait…

    Create opportunities to ask for help by “sabotaging” familiar situations

    • Give them the wrong thing – if they ask for a cookie, give them a crayon!
    • Make “silly” mistakes.
    • Put on one shoe but not the other, or shoes on before socks.
    • During painting/drawing give them the paper but no paints/crayons.
    • Wait for the child to let you know and say what’s missing.
    • Put the child's favourite food or toy in a clear container that they can't open. Put the container in front of them and wait for a request for help.
    • Hide the toothpaste just out of sight
    • Hold a book upside down
    • Pass them their sibling’s (or your own!) shoes or coat to put on

    Use sabotage to create a need to request more

    • Only give your child a small amount of juice or snack (one crisp or one raisin) and wait for them to look for more.
    • Blow some bubbles and then stop. Wait for the child to request more/again then blow more bubbles, e.g. say ‘bubbles’, ‘more bubbles’, ‘more bubbles please’ when you blow the bubbles and shout ‘pop’ when you catch the bubbles.
    • Begin playing a favourite activity such as building bricks. After a few turns hold all the bricks in your hand. Wait for the child to ask for more bricks.
    • Pause at a crucial moment during an action rhyme and wait for the child to indicate that they want you to complete the routine. e.g. ‘Humpty dumpty had a great……………….’, wait for them to watch / look for the fall, then say ‘fall’ as you do the actions to the rhyme. Try this with The Wheels on the Bus, or Round and Round the Garden – stopping before the tickle / favourite part is a great way to    encourage the child to join in and look for more.
    • Activate a wind-up toy or one that the child cannot operate on their own, deactivate it and wait for the child to request / look for it to work again.
  • Learning about first words means learning to understand the words and then being able to say them.  Children usually learn to understand words before they attempt to say them.

    Key strategies for supporting early understanding:

    Talk to your child when you are playing together, using single words and short phrases.

    Have fun with nursery rhymes and songs, especially those with actions.

    Encourage the child to listen to different sounds in their environment such as cars, animals and the telephone.

    Gain the child’s attention and get down to their level when you want them to listen.

    Offer choices whenever possible e.g. ‘banana or grapes?’, ‘milk or juice?’, ‘a book or a ball?’ Show them the options and name them. They may point or reach to the one they want, then you can name it e.g. ‘oh you want a banana’.

    Use simple language to comment on what the child is doing or playing with using single words or short phrases. Label the objects and actions with single words e.g. ‘ball’, ‘cat’, ‘car’, ‘jump’, ‘walk’ and so on.

    Use lots of repetition e.g. say shoes off, blue shoes, mummy’s shoes etc.

    Create verbal routines – use the same words each time you do something e.g. night night sleep tight, or ready steady go!!!

    Emphasize the important words e.g. ‘It’s your dinner’, ‘Where are your shoes?’

    Use the names of objects instead of using words like ‘it’ and ‘that’ use the object’s name e.g. ‘Let’s post the letter’ rather than ‘Let’s post it’.

  • A child’s first words are likely to be names of family members, familiar toys or social words such as ‘hiya’, ‘bye-bye’, ‘all gone’. Usually, first words are the ones the child hears over and over again.

    Remember that communication is not just about “talking”. It can start with signing, an attempt at a word, a noise, a gesture, eye pointing, or any other attempt to get your attention – all steps in the right direction!

    Key strategies for encouraging your child to say words:

    Use choices whenever possible e.g. ‘banana or grapes?’, ‘milk or juice?’, ‘a book or a ball?’. Accept pointing or reaching, and model the name of the one they wanted.

    Encourage the child to communicate in any way not just through words e.g. pointing, copying actions/ noises.  You can then interpret and say back to the child what they would have said if they could.  Next time they might copy you or attempt a word.

    Always give a response when the child tries to communicate – this reinforces the success of talking to you.

    Encourage any attempt at a word – if a word attempt was unclear, simply model a clear word that you think they might have meant e.g. your child says ‘gi’, you can say ‘yes it’s your drink’.

    Allow your child plenty of time to communicate. Have your turn and then pause and wait for them to communicate back verbally or through gesture.  The more we stimulate the child, the less opportunities there are to communicate spontaneously – we need to back off sometimes!!

    Create opportunities to use words by setting up situations to encourage the child to make a request e.g. you could put the biscuits in view but out of reach, or put your hand on the door handle and pause. Allow time for your child to communicate what they need in any way that they can - model words or signs alongside their request if needed.

    Try to have a special talking time with the child each day. Take five to ten minutes where you play with toys, look at picture books or just talk about what you are doing.  Use this time to focus on using the strategies to support early language development. Fit in more “talking times” each day if you can!

    Try not to put any pressure on the child to copy or say words. Have fun with the activity and don’t worry if it’s you saying the words most of the time. Your child will be listening and will use words when they are ready.


  • Social words

    Hello’ and ‘Bye bye’ are easy words to practice:

    • Practice whenever anyone comes into view, or leaves a room. It will help to do an action like waving as well as saying the word.
    • Say ‘Hello’ and ‘Bye bye’ to the toys when you get them out or put them away, e.g. ‘Hello bricks’, ‘Bye bye dolly’.
    • Use a toy phone to encourage greeting words.

    Thank you’ or ‘ta’

    • Play give and take games. Say ‘thank you’ or ‘ta’ as you take the object or toy. Ta is easier to say than thank you. Children that start saying Ta easily move on to saying Thank you when they are ready.


    • Take turns to hide behind something – an object or your hands. Say ‘Boo!’ as you reappear.
    • Look back around a door as you leave and say “boo!”


    • Play games which involve ‘ready, steady go’ e.g. ball rolling, car rolling, running, building towers and knocking them down. Try and build the anticipation to make the ‘GO!’ really exciting.
    • Add “go!” into walks, or playing on swings or slides.      

    People’s names

    Often a child’s first words are the names of the people close to them, e.g. Mummy, Daddy, Nana.

    • Repeat people’s names lots of times, e.g. ‘It’s Mummy!’, ‘Look at Mummy’, ‘Mummy’s eating an ice-cream’.
    • Look at photographs/videos and talk about who you can see and what they are doing.
    • Don’t forget pets’ names!
    • Take turns with ball games, bubbles or building bricks. Use repetitive phrases to name the person whose turn it is, e.g. ‘Mummy’s turn’, ‘Daddy’s turn’, ‘Jonny’s turn’.
    • When out for a walk/shopping, talk together about the people and families you can see, e.g. ‘There’s a baby’, ‘Baby’s with her daddy’.
    • The same applies to names of favourite characters e.g. Spiderman or Disney princesses!

    Names for common objects and toys

    Talk about the things your child is interested in – use single words rather than sentences.

    • ‘Drink’, ‘bottle’, ‘nappy’, ‘dinner’, ‘car’, ‘bed’, ‘ball’, ‘teddy’, ‘book’.
    • Play with toys such as teddies, tea sets, cars, trains, shops etc. Talk about what your child is doing using single words or simple phrases.
    • Make a feely bag - fill a bag or shoe-box with a few objects. Encourage your child to pull out each object, play with the item while you name it and talk about it.
    • Look at pictures in books and name them, or match them with real objects.
    • Hide toys under a cloth and ask “where’s the car?” “Here’s the car!” and so on.

    Making requests

    ‘More’  is a useful word for children to learn as it can be used in lots of different situations.

    • Snack-time/dinner-time. When your child reaches out, or pushes his/her plate towards you to ask for some more, say ‘More’, ‘More please!’ as you give them more.  Later pause before you give them more to see if they attempt the word.
    • Play bubbles, making sure you only blow a few at once. When your child looks or makes a noise say ‘More bubbles?’
    • Choose a favourite toy which your child needs your help to use properly, e.g. a spinning top. When it stops, ask ‘More?’

    Important note: It is not recommended to insist on saying “please”, until your child is using lots of words to request things first – although it is polite, this word often ends up being used to ask for everything and can stop other words being learnt and used. This can happen with “more” too – be careful to make sure to work on the names for the objects as well.

    Making comments

    All gone’ or ‘gone’

    • During snack-time/dinnertime give small amounts of food so that your child finishes what’s on his/her plate. Say ‘All gone,’ and offer more.
    • Say “gone!” when bubbles pop.
    • When someone leaves the room, e.g. Daddy, say ‘Daddy gone’.
    • Say “gone” as you put each toy away in a box


    • Drop a toy off a surface. As it falls, say ‘uh oh!’ with lots of facial expression and anticipation that your child might laugh / try to copy.
    • Say “uh-oh” when mistakes happen naturally

    Body parts

    • During lap play, point out and name your child’s body parts, e.g. ‘eyes’, ‘nose’, ‘tummy’
    • Name parts of the body as you wash or dry them, e.g. ‘Where’s your nose?’, ‘Let’s wash your nose’
    • Sing ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and carry out the actions.
  • Simple everyday routines helps children begin to anticipate or expect to hear the familiar words or phrases. They begin to respond to the words and phrases and may attempt to use the words themselves to start the routine with you.

    • Mummy kiss’. You could say and do this when the child is sitting on your lap facing you, or just after he/she has been put to bed.
    • ‘Wave bye-bye’. Encourage the child to wave their hand when he/she sees someone leaving your house or when he/she is leaving someone else’s house.
    • Coat on’ (or ‘shoes on’) – say this when getting ready to go out.
    • Repeat the same words or phrases over and over again when dressing e.g. when dressing – ‘pants on’, ‘vest on’, ‘top on’, ‘trousers on’ 

           -  ‘Sarah’s shoes’, ‘Daddy’s shoes’,

    • Talk about what the child can see or what they are playing with by labelling objects with single words e.g. ‘ball’, ‘cat’, ‘car’, ‘jump’, ‘walk’, or items on the dinner table ‘ spoon’, ‘plate’, ‘apple’, etc
    • Play simple games e.g. ‘peekaboo’, ‘tickles’, ‘ready, steady, go’. Decide what simple vocabulary to use during the games and repeat these words regularly during the games. For example during peekaboo : - ‘boo’, ‘ where’s ……?’, ‘more

    If you use words and phrases like these on a regular basis in a range of daily situations the child should gradually begin to understand and respond to them appropriately.

  • There are lots of opportunities within everyday experiences to support language development – meal times can be brilliant for learning new language.

    Teach new words

    Talk about the foods you’re eating today

    Name your plate, knife and fork as you set them out


    Hot and cold

    Big and small

    Talk about the colours of the foods, or count how many chips you’ve got!

    Talk about the smells, and tastes – use describing words like sticky or spicy, and exclamations like “delicious!”

    Don’t forget the verbs!

    Talk about eating, cutting, washing up

    Take opportunities for making choices

    Which bowl shall we use today?

    Support listening skills – can they find the things you ask for? 

    Where’s the milk?

    Have fun!

    Build interaction skills by taking turns, passing the sauce

  • There are lots of opportunities within everyday experiences to support language development – try supporting language at bath time with these ideas.

    Teach new words

    Name the things around you – the towel, the shampoo, the bubbles and so on.

    Name different body parts as you wash.


    In and out

    Hot and cold

    Wet and dry

    Clean and dirty

    Full / empty

    Talk about the different colours you can see, and how many there are of the different objects

    Don’t forget the verbs!

    Talk about washing, splashing, sitting, drying

    Take opportunities for making choices

    Do you want bubbles or bath toys?

    Support listening skills – can they find the things you ask for? 

    Can you find the shampoo?

    Have fun!

    Build interaction skills by splashing together, singing songs

  • There are lots of opportunities within everyday experiences to support language development – kids love being able to join in and help, and you can get two jobs done at once by supporting language development at the same time!

    Teach new words

    Talk about the things you need to do

    Name the machines you use, name the clothes as you wash them

    Name the foods as you put them away


    Open and closed

    Long and short

    Clean and dirty

    Full and empty

    Wet and dry

    Same and different

    Talk about the colours and patterns on the clothes

    Don’t forget the verbs!

    Talk about cleaning, drying, tidying, sorting, washing, pegging

    Take opportunities for making choices

    Shall we put away the cars or the bricks?

    Support listening skills – can they find the things you ask for? 

    Can you put a sock in? Can you find a t-shirt to put in?

    Have fun!

    Build social interaction skills by taking turns, copying actions and making fun games with the different household activities.

  • There are lots of opportunities within everyday experiences to support language development – talk about what they are doing when they are playing outside.

    Teach new words

    Talk about all the things you see and hear when you are out for a walk


    In on and under

    Open and close

    Up and down

    Fast and slow

    Warm and cold weather

    Talk about the colours of the things around you – play equipment, and the natural world

    Don’t forget the verbs!

    Talk about running, jumping, sliding, catching, kicking

    Take opportunities for making choices

    Shall we go this way or that way?

    Support listening skills – can they find the things you ask for? 

    Where’s your shoes?

    Have fun!

    Build interaction skills by joining in with play – follow their lead and have fun together

  • There are lots of opportunities within everyday experiences to support language development - make shopping trips more fun by talking together and supporting language development!

    Teach new words

    Talk about what you want to buy

    Match up your list to the things you see

    Name the fruits as you walk down the aisles


    In and out of the trolley

    First and last in the queue

    Full and empty bags

    Top and bottom shelves

    Talk about your items using categories – the fruits, the tins

    Don’t forget the verbs!

    Talk about pushing and pulling the trolley, carrying the basket, opening the door, packing the bag, paying, finding

    Take opportunities for making choices

    Shall we buy these apples or these apples?

    Do you like bananas or grapes?

    Support listening skills – can they find the things you ask for? 

    Can you see the crisps we like?

    Have fun!

    Build interaction skills by talking together as you shop, taking turns to put the things on the conveyor belt, saying hello to the shop assistants.

  • Repeating and adding words to your child’s sentences helps them to develop their talking. By doing this your child will hear words that they can use to expand their sentences, you will be praising your child for their attempt at talking and your child will hear how to say the words clearly.

    Add one more word to the words your child uses.

    Add describing words to your child’s talking

    e.g. child says -“dog”, you could say “big dog” or  “black dog”

    • Use colours: red, yellow, blue
    • Use size words: big, little, tall short
    • Talk about shapes: round, square
    • Use other describing words: hot/cold/ wet/dry clean/dirty
    • Talk about feelings: happy, sad

    Add action words to your child’s talking

    e.g. child says “bubbles” you could say “blow bubbles” or “bubbles pop”

    Child says “juice”, you could say “drinking juice”

    • Drink                      
    • Sit                          
    • Look                        
    • Eat                         
    • Sleep                     
    • Play                       
    • Brush       
    • Build
    • Walk
    • Run
    • Read
    • Wash
    • Sing

    As your child’s language skills develop, you can extend their language skills by offering other words as well as adding language, such as synonyms e.g. if your child says “it big”, you could say “yes, it’s enormous!”

    This video from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust about the match and stretch strategy. A strategy that helps children understand new words and add words together in their own talking

  • We often use lots of questions with young children. This works well with children who have lots of language, but when children are still learning, they can get stuck, and not answer at all!

    Using comments instead takes the pressure off, and gives a good model for children to copy when they are ready.


    Can be hard to understand and respond to  e.g. what did you do today?

    Avoid asking questions you already know the answer to, as this isn’t always meaningful communication. It’s fine to ask questions that you need the answer to!!


    Children start to understand words by hearing them used over and over again.

    • Talk about things that you can both see.
    • Use simple language to describe everyday things that you’re doing.
    • Turn questions into comments e.g. rather than asking ‘what is it’, say ‘look, a teddy bear.
    • Add in more words when they are ready e.g. start by saying ‘it’s a dog’ before expanding to say ‘it’s a big dog’.

    Your child will then start to pick up new words to use themselves. Using comments helps your child to pick up the words they need.

    Try the five finger rule!!

    For every question, try to use four comments.

  • Verbs are action words (or “doing words”) like run, brush, or sleep. They are really important for helping children to combine words into phrases.

    Talk about the actions your child is doing as they are doing them, and the actions that others are doing around you e.g. “look that dog’s walking” “mummy’s eating” “baby’s sleeping” “you’re jumping”. Talk about what characters in books and on the TV are doing too.

    Action Songs

    Sing action songs like The Wheels on the Bus or “This is the way we…” – sung to the tune of “Here we go round the Mulberry Bush”.

    “This is the way we BRUSH our hair,

    BRUSH our hair, BRUSH our hair.

    This is the way we BRUSH our hair, on a cold and frosty morning.”

    “This is the way we JUMP up and down,

    JUMP up and down, JUMP up and down.

    This is the way we JUMP up and down, on a cold and frosty morning.”

    “This is the way we go to SLEEP,

    Go to SLEEP, go to SLEEP.

    This is the way we go to SLEEP, on a cold and frosty morning.”

    Add more verses of your own. When you are singing it with the child, do lots of actions and gestures and encourage them to copy you.

    Running Commentaries

    Whenever you are playing with the child or they are watching you do things around the house, make sure you comment on what you are doing.  Giving a running commentary will provide plenty of opportunity to emphasise ACTION WORDS.

    e.g. “Mummy’s WASHING the dishes. WASH, WASH, WASH. I’m WASHING the dishes – they’ll be nice and clean. Oh, WASH, WASH, WASH.”

    Let’s Make Teddy…

    Use a teddy bear or the child’s favourite character toy and demonstrate different actions e.g. teddy kick, teddy sleep, teddy jump. Then ask the child to make the teddy do different things, e.g. “Lets make teddy fall”. Take turns to give the instructions so the child gets to practice using some action words.

    Simon Says

    Play a simplified version of Simon Says with the child. Give him/her instructions like: “Emma RUN”; “Emma HOP”; “Emma SWIM”; “Emma SIT”.

    • Encourage them to act out what you say.
    • Reverse the game so that the child becomes the teacher and has to tell you what to do – they’ll love bossing you around!
    • This is a great game to play with a group of children – they will have to listen for their name and the action in order to do what you say.

    Teddy Simon Says

    Play the game but use a teddy and a dolly with moveable limbs. The child has to make the toys do the different actions.

    What Did Teddy Do?

    Make the child’s toy do different actions then ask the child “what’s it doing?” e.g. “sleeping”. To develop the child’s language, say the action in a sentence e.g. “teddy is sleeping” Carry on the game by using other action words.  Modelling language in this way helps children understand and later use important words like verbs.

    ‘Getting ready for School’

      You will need: a teddy or a doll (or the child’s favourite soft toy).

        a flannel (for washing)

        a hairbrush

        a bowl

        a spoon

    Tell the child that you are going to get the toy ready to go to school. Give the child directions like:

    FEED teddy

    WASH teddy

    BRUSH teddy

    Reverse the game so that the child is the teacher again and tells you what to do to teddy.

    Outdoor Play / Obstacle Course

    Name the actions the child is doing at the park, in the garden, playground e.g. swinging, throwing, kicking, climbing, running, crawling. Give them instructions “ready steady…run” “ready steady …jump”.

    Action Picture Scrapbook

    Look through some old magazines with the child for pictures of people doing things. Tell the child what the people are doing. Cut them out together and make up an action picture scrapbook. The child will love flicking through the pages with you and telling you all about the pictures.

    Posting Game

    Create a fun posting box e.g. a shoe box with a monster picture stuck on the front. Cut a hole out of the monsters mouth for pictures to be posted in to. Have a selection of action cards in front of the child. Start off with a choice of 3 and then build this up to 6 as the child becomes more confident. Ask the child to find a picture e.g. ‘who is sleeping?’ then encourage the child to post the picture into the box. Let the child become the “teacher” by naming the action for the adult to find.


    Have a selection of picture cards for different actions, look at the picture, say the word and mime the action. Once the child is familiar with the pictures, take turns to act out an action so the other person guesses the word.

What to do if you need to speak to someone urgently...