Communicating & talking skills

Communication skills are an important part of your child's development. Your child needs to be child talking image.jpgable to hear and understand what is being said to them and then use their talking skills to respond. They will also learn other skills for communicating such as body language, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye contact.

Newborns 0-3 months

  • Your 1 month old can hear you and knows your voice

Babies 3-12 months

  • From 6 months of age, they can tell how you are by feeling the tone of your voice and look on your face

Toddlers 1-3 years

  • At first, your child will understand more than they can say
  • They should respond to their own name and understand 'no' from 12 months of age
  • They should start to understand single words and short sentances. For example, 'bye-bye', 'night, night', 'bath time', 'let's go'

Preschool 3-5 years

  • At 3 years, they will understand slightly longer sentences e.g. 'Where is your teddy?'
  • At around 4 years of age, they will understand most simple things you say and will follow instructions with 2 to 3 steps e.g. 'go to your bedroom and get your jumper'

Newborns 0-3 months

  • Cries and makes coo noises

Babies 3-12 months

  • At first babies coo, laugh and play with sounds such as babbling ('ma-ma-ma-ma'), they may take turns with you to talk
  • From 6 months, your baby will make sounds tunefully, using different volumes and sounds e.g. 'ga-brrrr-le-dada-mmmm'
  • From 9 months, they will make more sounds in a row

Toddlers 1-3 years

  • Their babbling will start to include real words
  • At 15 months old they should be able to say a few words
  • From 18 months the number of words they can say will increase quickly. This will include familiar objects and people, body parts and animal noises. You might have difficulty understanding them at first
  • By 2 years old your toddler should be able to say 'I', 'you' and 'me'. They should use sentences with 2 to 3 words e.g. 'Mummy drink'
  • At 3 years old your child will be able to use sentences of 3 to 5 words and start asking 'why' to pretty much everything. They will know their name, age and a few colours

Preschool 3-5 years

  • At 3 years old your child might be able to tell a simple story for example about their day
  • By 4 years old your child will speak in longer sentences of around 5 to 6 words. Other people will understand what they say most of the time
  • By 5 years old they should be talking properly

Newborns 0-3 months

  • From 6 weeks old your baby will startle with a loud noise. They will start to make eye contact with you when you feed them. They should smile

Babies 3-12 months

  • From 3 months old your baby will turn their head to a sound and will listen to a familiar voice
  • From 6 months old your baby will show more emotion and copy your sounds, facial expressions and hand gestures. For example 'raspberries', laugh, squeal, growl and use hand gestures (e.g. put their arms up when they want to be carried)

Toddlers 1-3 years

  • As their language is just developing, they may use a variety of hand gestures and noises:
    • Ask for something by pointing
    • Let you know what they think for example by shaking their head or pushing a spoon away when they have had enough food
    • Nodding for yes or shaking their head for no
  • As your child learns to talk, they will start copying how adults talk. Their voice may go up at the end of a question They might start frowning and wagging a finger if they are telling you off
  • At 3 years old they will start learning how to take turns when speaking. You should be able to have a simple chat with them

Talk with your child, naming and talking about everything and anything. From counting out loud the steps as you walk down the stairs to telling them what piece of clothing you are folding when you are doing the laundry.

Even if you think your child doesn't understand, talking about what is happening in your daily life will increase the number of words your child hears. Repetition does help.

Top tips:

  • Remember to keep your words and sentences short and simple.
  • Take turns to talk.
  • Make sure that you leave gaps in your talking so that your child has a chance to answer you. 
  • Note and comment on their interests e.g. 'Look a dog. Dog is running. Dog is happy. Bye bye, Dog.' 
  • Give them time to respond back to you. Pause and look them in the eye.
  • Avoid asking them questions. Instead say what they might say. For example, 'oh, you're hungry.  You want some food. You want a cracker'.
  • Actively listen to what they have to say.
  • Model the correct answer whilst ignoring what was wrong e.g. if they say when looking at a lorry 'look, bus', respond with "yes it is a lorry".
  • Build on what they have said e.g. "Look it's a red bus. I see a red coat. I see a red post box. What can you see?"
  • Sing to them. Children love simple, repetitive songs especially those with actions.
  • Start reading to them at an early age. Link the words to pictures in the book. As they get older, point to the words as you say them to help them link written and spoken words.

Here are other places which provide tips to help:

All children are different. Some develop skills quickly and others may take longer. It is important to remember children start to understand words before they can say them.

Seek help if you see any of the following:

If your newborn does not:

  • respond to sudden loud noises
  • turn their head towards the sound
  • make any sounds

By 12 months of age if your child does not:

  • turn their head to soft sounds
  • try to communicate with you in a number of ways using sounds, hand gestures, eye contact, and/or words, particularly when needing help or wanting something

By 3 years old, if your child does not:

  • understand simple instructions/questions e.g. where's daddy?
  • say about 50 words
  • clearly say more than half their words
  • use their words and gestures to try and interact with you e.g. waving to say goodbye.
  • use the right words at the right time e.g. not be able to link what they are saying with what is actually happening at the time
  • combine 2 or more words together e.g. more drink
  • point to objects to share their interest with others by 2 years of age

By 5 years old, if your child does not:

  • combine words to make longer sentences
  • understand longer instructions e.g. pick up your cup and put it in the the sink
  • speak clearly enough to be understood by most people
  • use words as expected e.g. they have repetitive speech
  • use words but uses gestures to get what they want, for example takes and guides you to an object they want

You should be concerned at any age if your child stops doing what they were previously able to do so.

If you think your child is having trouble with communicating and talking to you, discuss your concerns with a professional such as a Health Visitor, GP, nursery/school teacher. They can provide advice and consider if a referral to a speech and language therapist or GP is needed.

You can refer your child yourself to Speech and Language Therapy services if you are concerned. There is information about the service in each area on their websites.

Wakefield: Telephone 01977 465417

North Kirklees: Telephone 0300 3045555

Calderdale and South Kirklees: Halifax telephone 01422 261340 or Hudderfield telephone 01484 344299

Leeds: telephone 0113 8433650

Bradford: telephone 01274 221166

Craven: telephone 01535 282821

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This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.