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Toddler talk

Parents and carers are very important in developing a child's language.

Children learn language best from the people around them talking about the things that are happening to them and that they are interested in. Although the television can be educational, it cannot respond like you do to your child.

The following activities and strategies can all help your child learn to understand and to talk.

  • Keep language simple: Add to your child's talking just a little to help them to develop it. If your child says no words, you could use one word, or if your child says one word, you could help by saying two words. For example: Child points to car; adult points to car and says "Car". Child says "Car"; adult adds to this and says "Blue car"
  • Encourage use of symbolic noises, such as "choo choo" for train and "meow" for cat. These are easier for children to copy than true words and children often use these first.
  • Provide experiences: Children learn language by hearing about things and doing things. Give a simple commentary as you go about your everyday activities. Talk about what you are doing, why you are doing it and what things are called. Your child will understand the language through their experiences and, in time, will start to use the words.

NHS guidance video: When will my child start talking? (12 to 30 months)

The Department of Education has created a resource called Hungry Little Minds to help support parents and carers with tips to encourage speech, language and development in age appropriate stages.

If by two and a half years old, they show little or no interest in interacting and communicating, or have few or no words; they may struggle to understand simple instructions like ‘Give the ball to Daddy’; you might find it hard to understand them, and they may be unable to join words together, please speak to your health visitor or GP.