Speech and language development

Communication is so Much More Than Sounds and Words

Written by Amanda Griffiths
Communication is so Much More Than Sounds and Words
Speech and language development: From birth to 18 months

Communication is so much more than sounds and words. Communication development involves all the senses: your baby hears and learns to listen, sees and learns to make eye contact. Listening, shared attention, eye contact, turn taking and play are the foundation to their speech and language development. Even before you hear your toddler’s first words, speech and language development has begun.

Parents instinctively adapt their communication to support their babies’ speech and language development. For example, they use higher pitched, cooing, simplified language called, “Motherese”. Research shows language development is strongly influenced by how much parents talk to their children. Your baby or toddler will begin to understand the words you use before he or she will say them. Speech and language development in the first 18 months happens at lightning speed. Your baby will go from crying to cooing and babbling to first words. This happens naturally but the foundation skills are like the roots of the communication tree.

Nurturing speech and language

There are a number of things you can do to nurture early speech and language development:

  • Consider a backward facing pushchair so your baby can see you and interact with you out and about.

backward facing pushchair

  • Talk to your baby!
  • Listen to your baby.
  • Watch your baby: what is he/she is looking at and showing an interest in? Follow his/her point of interest and talk about it, comment and use natural gesture.
  • Share books: picture books, story books, any kind of book!
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes: use the gestures and signs that often go with nursery songs and nursery rhymes. E.g. “Wind the Bobbin Up”, “Round and Round the Garden”, “Sleeping Bunnies” and “Wheels on the Bus”. Toddler Fun Learning has lots of songs and nursery rhymes to share with your baby.
  • Play with sounds: copy the noises your baby makes. Take it in turns; blow raspberries on your baby’s skin; blow softly on your baby’s cheek. Make popping and kissing sounds; play around with loud sounds and quiet sounds, hard and soft sounds.

sing and play with your baby

Encourage and Repeat
  • Encourage your baby to listen to noises in the environment. The car goes, “Brmmm”; the cow goes, “Moo” and the dog goes, “Woof”. Toddler Fun Learning’s, “Happy Animal Choir”, is a great way to introduce animal sounds to your baby.
  • When first words start to appear, repeat back what your baby says. If your toddler says, “Tat,” you say, “Yes! There’s a cat.” Your baby says, “gikgik.” You say, “You want a biscuit?” Emphasise the word you know he or she is trying to say.
  • As your baby’s vocabulary increases you can expand on what he or she says, e.g. your baby says, “Mummy”, you say, “Mummy’s here!” Your baby says, “Car”, you say, “Blue car.” Your baby says, “Biscuit”, you say “It’s a chocolate biscuit!” Use natural language, e.g. it’s okay to say, “That’s right it’s a car! It’s a blue car.” Your baby says, “Cat”, you say “Yes! The cat is jumping.” So, you are putting the words into a sentence but the key words are there for your baby to hear.

Children's First sounds

“Most importantly enjoy this magical time of early communication!”


Amanda GriffithsAmanda is a paediatric speech and language therapist and education consultant, with over 20 years of experience. She is passionate about enhancing children’s communication skills and has specialist experience working with children with complex needs. Alongside her clinical practice Amanda provides training, supervision, clinical based research and service reviews for nurseries, schools and other organisations. From a personal perspective Amanda has four sons, three who have dyslexia and one who has Down syndrome. To find out more or get in touch please visit www.amandagriffiths.uk

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