Blogs | Think Pieces

Frequently asked questions for families of young children

June 20, 2024

Our team of speech and language advisors have put together answers to some of the questions that we most often get asked by families.

We’ve split the questions into different topics to make it as easy as possible for you to find the answers you’re looking for!

Questions about my child’s development

There are lots of reasons why some children have challenges with talking and understanding words, and lots that you can do to help them. You can use our free progress checker for a quick check of your child’s skills and to be directed to relevant advice pages and videos for some tips and ideas.  

If you are concerned about autism or other long-term speech and language challenges, talk to your child’s GP, health visitor, nursery/early years setting or school. They can help refer your child to a speech and language therapist or other professionals for assessment if necessary.

There is some evidence that boys and girls may develop their skills at slightly different rates, although the research on this is mixed. If you are concerned about your child’s talking and understanding of words, use our free progress checker for a quick check of their skills and to be directed to some relevant advice pages and videos. You can also have a look at our Ages and Stages pages for a guide to what’s typical.   

In typical development, most children learn to talk by first saying lots of single words, then gradually learning to put those words together into two-word phrases and then longer phrases and sentences. Some children, however, learn language in a different way. Instead of learning lots of single words, they mainly copy whole phrases that they hear from others. These children are sometimes referred to as ‘gestalt language learners’. 

Some children may learn words that they are interested in, but struggle to use these words in a functional way to ask for things they want or to have a conversation with others. They might need help to learn how to use their words to communicate. There are lots of things families can do to help; have a look at our advice page for some ideas: Create opportunities for your child to communicate. 

Questions about helping my child at home

It’s a great start that your child understands words, and there are lots of things you can do at home to help them learn to say words too. Your child may start off by making noises like animal or vehicle sounds (e.g. ‘moo’, ‘choo-choo’). You can help by copying the sound back and telling them its name. For example, ‘Choo-choo! Here comes the train! Choo-choo’; or ‘Moo… says the cow’. Follow their lead in play and use simple words and phrases to talk about what they are doing. Have a look at some of the ideas on our advice pages: Supporting children’s early communication skills and Help your child learn new words. 

Some children prefer to have time playing on their own and that’s okay. However, having some time playing together with others provides opportunities for children to develop their communication skills. Try joining in with your child by playing alongside them and copying their actions, sounds or words. Gain their attention by playing exciting games like peek-a-boo, wearing a funny hat, or singing songs! Take a look at our advice page for more ideas: Create opportunities for your child to communicate and Supporting children’s early communication skills. 

It’s typical for children to make mistakes when they try to say new words, such as saying ‘tat’ for cat. You don’t need to correct their mistakes, just say the word back to them the right way (e.g. ‘yes, cat!’). Have a look at our speech sounds advice page for a guide to typical development and some ideas of how you can help your child. 

NoAround half the world’s population speak two or more languages! Being able to speak more than one language has lots of benefits for children and adults. Talking with your child in the language you know best is the most helpful thing to do. Have a look at our advice page for more tips and information on helping your child learn more than one language: Children learning more than one language. 

Using natural gestures, actions and pointing when you talk to your baby can help them to understand what you are saying. Babies and young children often communicate by using actions and gestures, too. For children who struggle to talk and understand words, signing is sometimes recommended by speech and language therapists to help develop their communication skills. However there is no evidence that typically-developing babies and children will have any long-term benefit from being taught sign language. Have a look at our blog on this topic for more information: Myth-busting: Signing and gestures. 

Questions about toys, apps and technology

You are the best toy for your child to play with! You can help your child learn new words just by playing and chatting during everyday activities. There’s no need to buy expensive toys or digital products to support your child’s language development. Follow your child’s lead while they play with whatever interests them most (it may be an empty cardboard box!) and talk to them about it. See our advice page for more ideas: Supporting children’s early communication skills. If you are still looking for ideas of toys and games that encourage lots of talk, have a look at our advice page: Top ten toys. 

Spending time playing with adults and other children is the best way for your child to develop their communication skills. There’s lots of ideas on our advice page: Supporting children’s early communication skills. However, screens are a part of daily life and they are difficult to avoid. Have a look at our Myth-busting: screen time blog for some advice on how to use screens safely with children.  

Questions about support services

There are lots of things that you can do to support your child and develop their skills yourself at home: 

  • Take a look at our resource library for families for advice and videos on how to support your child at home.  
  • Answer some simple questions on our free progress checker to be sent some relevant advice pages based on your child’s skills.  
  • Visit our webpage talk to a speech and language therapist for: 
  • our free webinars on a range of topics, and  
  • a free advice line where you can book a call with a speech and language therapist.  
  • If your child is at nursery or school you could ask their teacher, key worker and/or the SENCo for advice on what you can do at home to help.  
  • Try looking at your local NHS speech and language therapy website; they often have advice sheets, videos or even an advice line you can call.  
  • Check out your county council’s Local Offer. They may have speech and language groups running at local Children’s Centres or Family Hubs. 
  • For private speech and language therapy take a look at  

You are the person who knows your child best and the person who spends the most time with them. This means you are the best person to help your child develop their communication skills. Speech and language therapists can suggest simple ideas to use in everyday activities at home. These small tips can make a big difference to your child. Check out our resource library for families for more ideas to help your child at home.