How to Help Your Child Learn to Talk

It’s one of the best moments for parents to hear their child speak their first words – especially if it’s ‘mama’ or ‘dada’! Learning to talk is a big achievement for children, so find out how you can help your child learn to talk.

A child’s understanding of speech and language begins way before they’re actually able to talk. From the very early stages, they’re aware of other people talking – even if they can’t actually understand any words at that time – and of the types of sound that different people’s voices make. Due to this, it’s good to talk frequently to your child from birth, so they get used to hearing your voice and will be encouraged to make their own attempts at talking.

When Do Children Learn to Talk?

In the early stages, a baby’s attempt at talking is barely recognisable. By the age of three to four months old, they’ll be regularly making cooing noises – often in response to you speaking to them. Don’t ignore the cooing, as this is their first attempt at talking and is the foundation for language development. A few months later, their cooing will become babbling, where they repeat simple strings of syllables.

Part of the reason why babies coo and babble, rather than learning to talk straightaway, is due to their vocal chords – they don’t fully develop until the ages of 12 to 18 months.

Most children begin to utter their first words around the age of one year old, although children might not fully grasp language skills until the age of 18 months, depending on their vocal chord development.

How Can Parents Help?

As a parent, you can do plenty to help your child learn to talk, both in the pre-talking stages, and when speech has started to develop. As mentioned earlier, one key way in which you can encourage your baby to continue practising making their first sounds is by talking to them as much as possible. This can be as you’re playing with them, reading to them, bathing them, feeding them or when you’re out and about with them in the pram.

When a child begins to talk, your efforts at encouraging them could step up a gear. As before, it’s good to talk to them, involve them in conversation and help expand their speech and talking ability. But you can also help their learning experience by playing games that involve the use of talking. For example:

  • You could play counting games using fingers and toes.
  • You could devise games where your child names simple objects, such as items of clothing, kitchen objects or even body parts.
  • Singing songs together, but leaving out crucial words – your child has to fill in the missing words. By leaving out a different word each time, their memory and learning ability will be challenged too.
  • Sharing photos with your child and asking them to name the people or objects in the photos.

As a child becomes a preschoolers, their language will become even better. They’ll be able to talk quite well, often chattering along happily on their own or with other people, and they may well love making up their own words, as well as learning new ‘proper’ ones. At this stage, you can get involved in helping your child’s talking ability by asking them to explain things to you, like what they’re playing with, have drawn or are making.

Once they’re at school, a child’s talking ability and vocabulary will expand further. Talking to them about their day is always a good thing to do – not least so you can glean a few details about what they’ve done at school – but also to help them discuss and verbalise their day.