Give your child a reason to talk

You know your child really well so it is easy to know exactly what they will want or need. Often, you will give it to them before they ask or leave it where they can get it themselves. In order to help your child to talk, it is important that you give them a reason to talk by making things a little bit more difficult.  It can help if you change things around in your daily routines so that your child has to ask for your help.

What should we do?

  • Move your child’s favourite toys or snacks out of his / her reach so they have to ask for them.
  • At snack time, only give your child a few bits or a little bit of drink – so your child has to ask for more.
  • Forget things! Give your child a cup but no juice, only one sock or shoe, their pyjama top but no bottoms – so they have to ask.
  • Stop playing! When you are both really enjoying playing a game, stop and look away so your child has to ask you to join in again.
  • Don’t anticipate your child’s needs – wait until he / she asks for a drink or snack. Make it fun – don’t wait until they get frustrated and cross as this might prevent them from wanting to try.
  • Praise any attempts at telling you what they want. At first your child might look at or take you to what they want. Then they might point and use a sound. Eventually we hope they will try to use words to ask for what they want.


Eye contact

  • Peek-a-boo games, from behind furniture, behind the curtains, under the bedclothes, with the towel at bath time and when getting dressed
  • Squeaky or noisy toys held near the face, stop the noise and wait for eye contact before the next noise is made
  • Coloured scarves held over the face and slowly pulled away
  • Sunglasses or eye masks to encourage your child to look at faces
  • Blowing bubbles, preferably with a large blower and quality bubble mixture


  • Blow up balloons and let them go, feel the air, make them squeak, draw faces on them
  • Wind-up toys put on the table and allowed to run to the edge and fall off, increase the distance travelled by the toy
  • Feely bags or boxes containing objects of tactile interest such as playdough, koosh ball, fruit etc.


  • Copy any faces and sounds back to your child then see if he/she will copy your faces and sounds
  • Copy your child’s actions, such as banging toys together then see if your actions are copied


  • Sing action or singing rhymes going round a group in turn always using names
  • Play with two different toys, giving the first one to your child then offering the second one and letting him/her have it when the first toy is returned
  • Throw balls or bean bags to your child
  • Send wind-up toys back and forth
  • Roll toy cars back and forth
  • Pop-up toys – take turns to press the button


Offer your child a large variety of different sounds to listen to:

  • Old yoghurt pots filled with dried peas, lentils etc.
  • Tins filled with different sound making items such as pasta shapes, Smarties, etc.
  • Wooden spoons and pan lids
  • Whistles, horns and squeakers
  • Rattles, keys, threaded milk bottle tops, buttons or beads
  • Musical instruments

Choose a sound maker which you think your child will hear when he/she is not looking, make the sound and see if there is a response.  If he/she turns to the sound then hand over the toy as a reward, play with it together and encourage him/her to imitate your action.

Encourage awareness of sounds around the house by talking to your child about them, e.g. the phone ringing, dogs barking, door bells, doors banging, water running etc.

Do the same with sounds outside the house e.g. cars, lorries, planes, tractors, road drills etc.

Have a noisy conversation / babble play

Children will naturally babble and play with sounds as part of their speech and language development. Often they start with simple ‘cooing’, squealing or shouting. They may use vowel sounds like “ah ah” or “ee ee” and then start to add in other sounds like ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘baba’. Children often babble when it is quiet around them and they will experiment with the variety of sounds, the volume and even the pitch of the sounds. By joining in with this sound play and repeating their babbling back to them, you will encourage your child to develop their listening, speech and interaction skills.

What should we do?

When you hear your child making noises, sit in front of your child face to face and repeat back their sounds. At first your child may quieten, so give plenty of eye contact and smiling to encourage your child and then repeat the babble sounds a few times. Eventually your child will produce more sounds for you to repeat back. It can turn into quite a conversation!

These sounds need to be repeated over and over again to encourage your child to take part and join in. The more you exaggerate the noise and the sillier you are the better!

What shall I do next?

Once your child is joining in with this game, try introducing different babble sounds yourself rather than copying your child all of the time. By extending the babble sounds, your child will learn to make new sounds.

Symbolic noises

Symbolic noises are often developed before and during the time when your child starts to use actual words.  A symbolic noise is a noise a child uses to represent something such as ‘moo!’ for a cow or “nee – naw” for a police car.  Symbolic noises are often easier and more interesting for a child to learn.

What should we do?

Choose noises which will motivate and interest your child.  The easiest two topics to choose from are transport and animals.

You can use and reinforce these noises wherever you are.  For example,

  • With the toy farm or garage, model the noises when you are playing.
  • When out on the bus, in the car or walking, point out the different things you see making the symbolic noise.
  • Visit your local park, farm, building site or bus depot and model the noises to your child when you see the animals or vehicles.
  • Share simple picture books where you can use the noises when looking at the pictures.
  • Sing songs using the noises such as ‘Old Macdonald had a farm’


Make these noises as fun and interesting as possible! You can also try words such as “pop” “bang” “splash” and “whee” when playing.