Understanding Speech & Language Development

Understanding Speech & Language Development

During the early years, one of the most joyful and exciting experiences for any parent is seeing their baby’s language and communication skills develop. Human nature is amazing; parents instinctively know how to act in ways that help baby join in conversations and learn to communicate. A new born baby is already very clever also and knows how to nudge their parents along to be a great helper. Babies and parents become conversational partners from the get go.

Supporting your baby's communication during the earliest months and year.

Supporting your baby's communication during the earliest months and year.

Babies begin hearing their parents voices a few months before they are even born.  While the sound of the speech they hear is a bit muffled, baby is still getting used to the sounds of their parent’s unique voice and the sounds of their native languages.

  • You can talk and sing to baby before they are born. If this feels a little strange don’t worry,  your baby will still benefit from hearing your voice and speech pattern as you have conversations with family and colleagues throughout the day.
  • Meeting baby for the very first time is one of those very special moments, baby will often surprise their parents by  calming when they hear the familiar and comforting sound of their voices.
  • Soon after their birth, baby will also give their parents a gentle nudge to start a conversation with them, by gazing directly at them. Parents tend to respond by gazing back and speaking gently to their baby with an exaggerated lilting intonation pattern.
  • These are the very first and important conversations that take place between baby and parents before and immediately after they are born.


Find out how conversations with your baby help build their language and communication skills.

During babies very early months you can chat about almost anything with them and your baby will love listening to you.  Hearing you speak allows them to get used to all the sounds of spoken language.
Babies also love taking turns with you …whenever you can get face to face with baby…talk to them, smile, pause and wait expectantly for them to take their turn in the conversation. They will smile back at you and vocalise with happiness and then look at you and wait for you to speak.
From about three or four  months baby will love when you copy their sounds and facial expressions; they will watch your face expectantly waiting for you to copy them.

Babies and parents can have different personalities.

  • if you have a chatty personality it will be easy for you to keep up the conversation with baby and you may need to remind yourself to wait for your baby to take a turn in the conversation.
  • if you have quieter less chatty style you may need to remind yourself to chat to baby. 
  • If baby is chatty they will prompt you chat back.
  • If baby is quiet, you may need to encourage them to take turns and chat.  Try to notice when they make a sound or smile and make sure to respond.
  • Your baby will love when you spend special quiet times with them, just relaxing, noticing their facial expressions, playing and chatting with them.  
  • Why not put the smart phone on silent; turn off  the TV and radio as often as possible so your baby and toddler has your full attention and can hear your voice as you speak without competing background sounds 



Your baby has lots of unique ways of  starting and taking their turn in  conversations.  As their parent you will recognise the sounds, facial expressions and body movements they make to let you know their needs.

When you notice your baby trying to communicate with you, you can reply to them by saying what you think they might be trying to tell you.  "Do you want Daddy to lift you up ?" "You are hungry"

Gradually you will begin to talk mostly about whatever is catching  baby's attention.   By commenting on what your baby is noticing, baby begins to make sense of language you use.

Baby will soon begin to notice that they can direct your attention.  They may look at something interesting and  check to see if you are also looking and wait for you to say something about it.

This is called shared or joint attention; it is an important way that parents and babies are partners … when you notice and talk about what has caught your baby’s attention, you are helping them to make sense of the words and short sentences you speak.


From about nine months your baby is beginning to understand short phrases and words that you say. The best way to support their language and communication is to keep the conversation going.  Notice what is grabbing their attention and say something about this.  By linking your words to what your baby is looking at you will help them to understand what words mean.

Talk naturally in a conversational style with baby and toddler about all your shared experiences.  Every time you spend time together is an opportunity for a conversation and using interesting words.

  • Bath time words...splash, water, duck, wash, shampoo.......
  • Dressing words...hands, fingers, toes. foot, take off...
  • Out and about words...shop, trolley,