Supporting babies’ early communication skills

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

How can I help my baby develop their communication skills? 

Babies are amazing learners. They are born ready to learn about their home language or languages. You – as your baby’s family – are the most important people to help them on their journey towards learning to communicate. Here are some tips to support your baby’s communication skills: 

Be face to face: Your baby will learn a lot from looking at your face and body language when you talk. Make it easy for your 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 your baby makes. If your baby says ‘ga’- you say ‘ga’ back. If your baby claps – you clap. This is the first step in your baby learning to take turns in a conversation.

Watch closely: What is your baby doing or looking at? Watching your 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 your baby’s attention.

Choices: Even before your baby can talk, they can often find other ways to communicate what they want if given a choice. Show your baby two things to choose between (e.g. ‘teddy or ball?’, or ‘apple or banana?’). Your 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 your baby or toddler 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 your child seems interested in. See our information on book sharing. 

When should I use these strategies? 

Babies are developing their communication skills all the time. It is most helpful to use strategies to support your baby’s communication skills during your normal daily routines. Here are some examples: 

Useful websites 

BBC – Tiny Happy People

NHS – Help your baby learn to talk

Words For Life – How to encourage your baby to talk