Tips for Talking to your Baby

You don’t need to be an expert to help your child develop good communication skills. All you need is a listening ear and the willingness to chat to your child whenever you can.

Talking to your baby and young child is important and brings many benefits, such as:

  • It will help your child learn to talk, as it is from listening to your voice that babies learn to use language.
  • It will stimulate your baby’s brain, helping to strengthen the connections that make learning possible.
  • It will help your child become a good reader and writer, because language skills form the foundation for literacy.
  • It will help your child develop social skills and good relationships.
  • It will show that you love and respect your child, enhancing self-esteem.
  • It will help the two of you form a close bond - communication is the basis of your relationship with each other.

Talking to your baby is something that many of us assume comes naturally, and for some it does, but for others, it can be a worry as they are scared that they’ll get it wrong.

I will always remember my best friend, some thirty years ago when she first became a mum. She was super-intelligent; a research scientist, with lots of responsibility and very articulate. However, she wasn’t used to being with babies, and had no previous experience of talking with them. She wanted to get it right – she’s a scientist after all! She wants to get everything right!

This made me realise that what might come ‘naturally’ for some of us and is as ‘easy as falling off a log’, isn’t always as easy for others. So, if you are feeling anxious about ‘getting it right’ when talking to your baby, here are a few tips to help.


Remember, your baby loves you and wants nothing more than to connect with you. Make eye contact, get close (a cuddle helps but it could be in a baby seat with you facing) and focus in on each other. Five minutes is all you need, but really connect.

Be Excited

Use your whole face when you’re speaking with your little one and put as much ‘expression’ into your voice and facial expressions as possible. Colwyn Trevathen (1999) talks about ‘musicality’ of babies and ‘mother speak’. This is about letting your voice become musical as it rises and falls during your conversation. Lift your eyebrows, smile, laugh, toss your head, whatever, just forget about anything else that’s going on around you and be really excited to have this mini conversation with your new best friend.

Have a Conversation

Remember there are two of you in this story – speak to your baby as you would to a friend. Give them time to listen, think and then to respond. At first, they won’t respond. But if you continue with the pattern: speak, wait, encourage, wait… they will gradually get the message and become confident to respond, either with a tongue poking from their lips or with a gurgle. Every gurgle, every expression in response to your voice is the start of a ‘two-way conversation’.

As your baby becomes older, here are some more tips to help you to promote conversations and support them with developing a wide vocabulary and using words to express their thinking, as well as talk about what they know and what they want to do.

1) Talk to your child when you’re playing together.

2) Get into their zone and talk about what they are looking at or playing with – they will learn language faster that way.

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

4) Encourage your child to listen to different sounds, such as cars and animals. This will help your child’s listening skills.

5) Gain your child’s attention when you want to talk – remember CONNECT.

6) Increase vocabulary by giving choices, e.g. “Do you want juice or milk?” Just two choices is enough and repeat the question, showing the milk and the juice carton as you ask. Wait for an answer.

7) Talk about things as they happen, e.g. when you’re both unpacking the shopping. ‘I’ve got some nice bananas for you… mmm… bananas for Lucy’s tea’.

8) Listen carefully and give your child time to finish talking. Take turns to speak. Remember it takes a long time for your child to make a sentence. They have to: listen, think about what you’ve said; they then have to decide what you want them to say; find the words in their memory to respond; put the words in the right order and then speak… so be patient and give them time.

9) Always respond in some way when your child says something. If you ignore them, they begin to lose confidence.

10) Help your child to use more words by adding to what they’ve said, e.g., if they said “ball” you might say, “Yes, it is a big, red ball.”

11) If your child says something incorrectly, say it back the right way, e.g., “Goggy bited it.” “Yes, the dog bit it, didn’t he?” – we call this ‘recasting’

12) Try and have special time with your child each day to play with toys and picture books.

13) Limit TV time. Try to watch TV together so you can talk about what happens.