How can I help my child’s language skills?

Children learn to talk by listening to people around them. Your child will notice what you do and mimic sounds and mouth shapes. You can use everyday moments to help your child develop their language skills. 

Mother with baby in arms sat next to toddler looking at iPad

Show and tell  

Learning words and objects at the same time is great for early language development. Pick up or point to an object. Let your child see or feel the object you’re talking about, and say its name. This helps your child make the connection. It also gives you the chance to explain what new words mean. 

Build sentences up bit by bit

Start by giving your child a word and letting them practise that. Then add more words on to help build sentences. 

For example, let your child help you sort the washing and get them to call out the colour or name of each item. Over time, encourage them to add words together. “Socks” could become “my socks” or “red socks”. Then go from there. 

Create links between words

Talk about how some words work together. Tell your child how some new words connect to words they already know. These could be words with similar meanings (tall, high, long). Or link words that describe things in one group (cat, dog, hamster).   

Children need to know a range of different words. So try to use different types of words when you’re talking together. Think about including: 

  • “Doing” words (like walking, swimming, driving).  
  • Describing words (like big, heavy, red). 
  • Words that name a person, place, thing, or idea (carrot, tractor, cat). 

Ask open questions

Encourage your child to try new words by giving choices instead of yes or no questions. For example, try asking “Would you like raisins or a banana?” instead of “Would you like a banana?”. 

Next time you watch a film together, ask about their favourite part. A good prompt is “I thought it was exciting when…”. This lets them give more detail than questions like “Did you like the film?”.  

Repeat words lots of times

Children need to hear a new word lots of times before they learn it. So think about different ways to include important words. For example, imagine you want them to learn the word chair. At different times you could say “Can you sit in your chair?”, “What colour is that chair?” and “I will move the chair”.  

Listen to sounds

Talk with your child about what you can hear around you. Is it a loud noise or a quiet noise? Is it an animal or a car? Your child might enjoy copying noises, too.

What if my child needs help?

Some children may need help learning to speak. If their progress seems to be delayed, take them to a doctor for a check-up. If your child has additional or special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), ask their special educational needs co-ordinator (SENco) for advice. 

You can also read our article to find our what it might mean if your child’s speech is delayed. 


Go back

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What does it mean if my child’s speech is delayed?


How can play help my child learn new words?


What SEN support can my child’s school provide?


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