Six Ways to Help Your Child Talk: Activities to Encourage Your Child's First Words

Welcome  to Six Ways to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: this week's extract and your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.  

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Speech: activities for babies
Play with sounds with your baby. When he babbles, saying “bababa'” or “gaga”, he’s enjoying the sounds he’ll use later in his speech. Repeat them back to him. Try out a whole range of speech sounds with him, and watch him enjoy it.

Speech: baby activities: labels
Repeat the names of things, many times. He needs to hear the word “drink” dozens of times before he recognises it as the symbol or label for the stuff he drinks. Remember, groups of sounds are not words until they have meaning, so supply him with the words alongside babble play.

Speech: baby activities: puzzles
Play with a heavy wooden puzzle, where each piece is a picture of an object, and lifts out of a board. When you pull out a piece, say the name. Let your child pull out another one, and say the word with him.

Speech: baby activities: books
Look at picture books together. Choose some that have a single object on each page. Collect real objects to match the pictures and keep them in a box. As you turn to each picture, help him search through the box for the matching object. Say each word clearly.

Speech: baby activities: word games
Use daily activities to teach new words. At bath time, say the name of each part of your child's body as you wash it. At mealtimes, name the cutlery and crockery. Don’t ask him to repeat your words, and don't say “Say shoe,” but when he makes sounds that are a bit like an appropriate word, say the word back to him, in the adult version. His sounds will soon become that real word.

Speech: baby activities: my book
Make a scrapbook of things your child knows. Include photos of family members and pets. Put in pictures from magazines, of cups, toys and clothes that look like ones he knows well. Put his photo on the outside and write his name on it. 

Sit down often to look at the book. Talk in simple sentences about each picture. Make sure you use the name of the object often. 

Say, “Look, there’s Jane. She’s got a hat on.” Your child will love his very own book, all about himself. He’ll soon start saying the names.

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