Supporting babies’ early communication skills

Advice for supporting early communication skills in babies aged 6 – 18 months.

How can I help a baby develop their communication skills? 

Babies are amazing learners. They are born ready to learn about their home language or languages. Here are some tips to support babies’ communication skills: 

Be face to face: Babies learn a lot from looking at your face and body language when you talk. Make it easy for the baby to see and hear you by getting down onto the floor with them and being face to face. 

Take turns: Copy the sounds and actions that the baby makes. If the baby says ‘ga’- you say ‘ga’ back. If the baby claps – you clap. This is the first step in helping the baby to take turns in a conversation. 

Watch closely: What is the baby doing or looking at? Watching the baby closely can help you know when they are ready to hear a new word, and when they are busy thinking and don’t want to be interrupted! Babies and toddlers will often let you know when they want you to talk to them, by looking towards you, pointing, or bringing something to show you.  

Repeat words: Babies need to hear words lots of times before they can understand the words or use them to talk. Keep your sentences short and say important words several times- ‘Shoes. Your shoes. Red shoes. Bye-bye shoes’. Use an excited voice to help catch the baby’s attention. 

Choices: Even before babies can talk, they can often find other ways to communicate what they want if given a choice. Show the baby two things to choose between (e.g. ‘teddy or ball?’, or ‘apple or banana?’). The baby may show you what they want by looking, reaching, pointing, or by trying to say the word. 

People play: Babies learn to communicate best by spending time playing and communicating with other people. They don’t need expensive toys or screen time. Here are some people play games babies or toddlers might enjoy: Peekaboo, round and round the garden, chasing or lifting games. Find more ideas here. 

Songs, nursery rhymes, and music: Babies can learn words and actions through songs and nursery rhymes. Some good action songs to try are: ‘Wind the bobbin up’, ‘Row row row your boat’, and ‘If you’re happy and you know it’. Listening or moving to music can also help get them ready to notice sounds. Share songs, nursery rhymes, and music with your child in any of the languages that you use at home. 

Share stories: Looking at books together is a great way to help babies and toddlers learn new words. Start by simply talking about the pictures that the child seems interested in. See our information on book sharing.