Talk & Play


As babies grow they continue to build on the communication skills they learned in their first year. They understand more and more and will be growing in confidence at trying out different sounds.

Encouraging and supporting this learning makes all the difference.

Dive Deeper

First Words

At around a year of age your baby may be saying a few words. To begin with it may only be those who spend the most time with them that can understand what they are trying to say. 

The praise and positive response your child gets will encourage them to try more words.

Don’t worry if they do not say a word ‘properly’. Repeat back what they have said to them and say the word clearly. For example - your baby might say ‘Duh’ for dog you can say ‘Yes that is a big dog’.

Over time words will become clearer and others will understand them more easily.

Everyday Activities 

Every day activities are really interesting to your baby. They are an opportunity to talk and play with you.

Just talking about what you and / or they are doing means they will hear a lot of words. You can build special moments in your day that you and your baby can both look forward to. Turn off the TV and your phone and have time together playing or looking at books.

  • Get on your child’s level so they can see your face and hear you clearly – even a few minutes undisturbed time makes your child feel important and you can both concentrate on what you are saying to each other.
  • Nappy change and bath time can be a time for listening and talking with each other. Try singing songs and nursery rhymes. Peek-a-boo is a good ‘turn taking’ game that your baby will love.
  • Mealtimes can be a time for the family to talk about their day and enjoy time together.
  • Do the household chores together – talk about what you are doing, sing, dance it will be more fun for both of you.
  • Supermarket trips are easier if you use it as an opportunity to point and show your baby the things around them.


Play is the way children learn best – and parents and carers are a baby’s favourite playmate. You don’t need expensive toys - just a few minutes at a time to have fun together.

  • Get down at your baby’s level. Talk about what they are looking at.
  • Describe what they are doing – use short simple sentences ‘you are holding the red car’ and make the noises ‘car goes brumm, brumm’.
  • Respond to the sounds and noises your child makes – even if you are not sure what they are saying take a guess – ‘yes that is your duck’ add some extra detail to what you think they are saying/thinking ‘ducks go quack don’t they?’.
  • Try action nursery rhymes like ‘row, row your boat’ or ‘wind the bobbin’. The rhythm and repeating words are loved by babies and help them learn in an easy fun way.

Reduce Screen Time

There is no TV, phone or tablet that can teach a baby more than you!

  • Having the TV on in the background makes it harder for your baby to concentrate on new words and sounds.
  • Choose the times the TV is on and watch together so you can talk about what you see.
  • Try and reduce the time you spend on your smartphone – your baby will learn more by having eye contact with you when you speak and will know they are important to you.
  • Get outside – a walk to the shop a trip to the park give your baby the chance to see and talk about different things with you and listen to different sounds.

Dummies & Bottles

Some children may have struggled to get rid of their dummy / bottle at a year of age, as recommended. If your child is still using dummies or bottles it is important to help them stop using them. This will help develop clear speech. It will also help keep teeth and gums healthy.

Switching From a Bottle to a Cup

  • Choose an open cup or a free-flow cup with a lid and without a valve. This will help your child learn to sip rather than suck, this is better for their teeth. By about 12 months of age, most infants have the coordination and ability to hold a cup and drink from it.
  • If you don’t want to just stop feeding from the bottles suddenly, start by reducing them gradually from the feeding schedule, starting at mealtimes.
  • If your child usually drinks three bottles each day, choose a good time for you and your baby, perhaps when you’re not in a rush or under pressure, and replace that bottle with milk in a cup.
  • The bedtime bottle tends to be a part of the bedtime routine and is the one that most provides  comfort. Instead of the bottle, try offering a cup of milk with your child’s evening snack and continue with the rest of your night-time activities, like a bath, bedtime story and teeth brushing. It might help to give your child a comforting object to cuddle with, like a blanket or a favourite toy.

Weaning Off Dummies

  • Prepare your child in advance for what you’re going to do. 
  • Try limiting the time the dummy is used - perhaps only at nap time and bedtime. Try and use a different comforter such as a teddy, small toy or book.
  • Offer praise, reward with hugs and kisses, positive attention and playing – having fun. A star chart or stickers could work with older children.
  • Try not to turn back. No matter how well you have prepared your child for this change, it may be hard - keep going!

Time With Other Children

Spending time with other children is valuable for communication development. This could be;

  • toddler groups
  • with family and friends
  • at your local park
  • at nursery.

In time children learn to share and cooperate with others. They can learn how their actions make others feel. Children do not usually understand sharing until they are 3 or 4 years old – until then they will struggle to see things from others points of view. This is a good skill to practice!

If You Are Worried

Firstly remember that each child will develop at their own pace. Spend as much time as you can playing and talking with your child without distractions – even 5 minutes here and there adds up and can make a big difference.

Try this communication tool - you can identify which stage your child is at and try some of the activities and ideas to support your child's communication development.

If your child attends nursery or a registered childminder, talk to them about your worries – they will be able to work with you to build your child’s skills and advise on any next steps needed.

You can also contact our Just One Number team on the details below to talk through your concerns. The team may ask about your child's hearing and vision to be sure this is not getting in the way of their communication skill development.

Communication Quiz

This self-care resource is based on the ages and stages of children's communication development.

Answer questions about your child and the results you get will include information most useful to support their language development.

Take the quiz!

Other Fun Activities to Try

Just chatting to your child is one of the best things you can do for their development!

Why not try talking to them about the things you see every day, like the colour of buses or cars?

Find out more

When parents read to their children, they introduce them to a world of words, ideas, and stories.

It doesn’t have to be long, complicated books either. In fact, reading anything can help – the back of a cereal packet, an extract from a magazine or any words that happen to be around.

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 to 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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