Talk & Play

Babies ( Under 1 )

Babies are born to be sociable and want to communicate with those around them. Babies can show us what they need and how they feel from their earliest days.

In the first year of life babies are keen to learn and build communication skills that help them to be understood, and to understand and make sense of the world. Parents and carers are the most important teachers during this time.

Dive Deeper

Talking To Your Baby

From birth your baby will enjoy listening to you and other family members. This can include chatting, singing or reading to them. It can feel a bit strange to begin with and some people say it makes them feel silly but it is important for your baby’s development of understanding, speech and language skills.

Babies love to look at faces and will watch your expression and how your mouth moves. You may notice they try and copy your movements.

  • The more you talk to your baby, the more natural it will feel. Talk about what you are doing, what you can see and how you feel.
  • Choose the right time to chat with your baby - just like adults, babies feel more chatty at certain times of the day.
  • Your baby’s attention span will grow day by day. They will be able to react and respond to your voice from further away as they get older.
  • As the days and weeks go by you will get more and more back from your baby and they will reward you with smiles and begin to ‘answer’ with coos and babbling.
  • Take it in ‘turns’ allow the space for your baby to ‘answer’ you – you can guess what they might want to say and have a proper chat this way.

The increasing range of babble, shouts and noises your baby makes are an important step towards their first words.

When parents and carers show interest and enjoyment in what their baby has to ‘say’ this will builds their confidence and self esteem. When babies feel listened to they will want to try more and more sounds out. Remember:

  • Make lots of eye contact.
  • Keep your sentences short and words simple.
  • Keep your voice ‘musical’ and interesting.
  • Take notice of the things that they seem interested in and talk about them.
  • Don’t be distracted by your phone or the TV – your baby needs to be able to see your whole face and have eye contact with you.

First Moments & Early Days

When your baby is very first born let them hear your voice – it doesn’t matter what you say. Your voice will be familiar from when they were in the womb and can offer reassurance and comfort.

It will take some time for you to get to know each other. Your baby will give you ‘cues’ that will help you work out what they need and how they are feeling.


Skin to Skin

You may have heard about ‘skin to skin’ time immediately after birth. Holding your baby with their bare skin next to yours has many benefits for carers and baby.

This continues to be a really useful way to help you and your baby get to know each other in the early weeks and months. It can also help calm your baby.

Being Held

Your baby will probably want to be held a lot as they get used to being in the world. This is an important time and you shouldn’t worry that you will ‘spoil’ your baby or hold them to much. Holding your baby:

  • Builds their confidence that they can rely on you.
  • Helps them get to know your face and look at you (your baby’s favourite thing to do).
  • Allows you to more easily notice their cues and respond quickly.
  • Calms baby down (and you).

Singing To Your Baby

Words have a rhythm and a pattern – this is the same when we sing. Babies really enjoy being sung to. It helps them begin to understand how language works.

Babies love nursery rhymes – they are simple and usually have lots of repetition, they are easy to remember and tell simple stories. Children also enjoy you singing along to the radio or ‘made up’ songs.

Children don’t mind how you sound, or what you sing, they just care that you are singing to them – it makes them feel special and loved.


Reading To Your Baby

Children’s books with rhymes and simple stories are good. Reading anything from magazines to shopping lists will be enjoyed by your baby.


Some babies get a lot of comfort from sucking on their dummy. It is a personal choice for parents whether they give their baby a dummy or not.

It is advised that babies don’t use a dummy beyond the age of one. One of the reasons for this is that it can slow down speech development.

  • Keep dummies for sleep times as much as you can - distract your baby with chat and play when they are awake.
  • Take the dummy away when your baby is making noises, trying to babble and chat.
  • As your baby grows try and make the move to using a teddy or blanket as a comforter, rather than a dummy.
  • Wait until your child needs the dummy rather than automatically giving it to them.

Ideas that parents have told us they have used to stop dummy use 

  • Give the dummy to Santa/dummy fairy.  
  • Swap the dummy for a gift/cuddly toy/new toothbrush.  
  • Pretend to give the dummy to a friend's baby.  
  • Get the child to throw the dummy in the bin and say 'all done' or 'bye-bye'.  
  • Hand the dummy to your setting, health visitor or speech and language therapist who will give your child a sticker or picture to colour in.  

Things parents have told us

  • “It wasn't as bad as I thought; I just decided it had to go.”  
  • “He has started talking now so we have gotten rid of the dummy.” 
  • “After a couple of nights he stopped asking for the dummy.”  

Out & About

Taking your baby out and about is good for them and you – it gives a whole new set of sounds, objects, people and situations for your baby to experience and for you to talk about together.

  • To make the most of the chatting opportunity your baby’s pram or buggy should be facing you. This is particularly important in the first year of life.
  • Babies are much more able to join in and chat with you when they can easily see your face. You will also be able to spot straight away when something interests them, or when something worries them and they need reassurance.
  • If your child’s buggy is forward facing then be sure to stop regularly – get down to your baby's level and talk about what you can see.
  • Talk about the noises, the smells, the people and things around you.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 

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