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Your toddler’s first words: Helping them along

Are you ready to notice just how often you say ‘erm’? Here’s how to help when your quiet baby becomes a chattering toddler.

Your baby used to lay there looking cute in their vest and gurgling. Now they’re copying everything you say and narrating a trip to the shops. Out of the plentiful ways to get the most out of this developmental milestone, here are our favourites.

Hand over responsibility to the classics

When you’re busy being a parent, you might not be that inspired to invent your own child-friendly rhymes. That’s when to turn to Twinkle Twinkle. Or Wheels On The Bus. Or Hickory Dickory Dock. Or basically anything you can remember most of when you still have twenty minutes left of your journey and your toddler has finished their raisins.

Repetition is great for memory, and the links to actions – which most of the old-school rhymes have – help toddlers learn too. You can find some beautiful books of nursery rhymes out there (Best Beginnings, 2017).

Hand over responsibility to the classics, part two

Reading with a toddler will involve six pages getting ripped and them climbing off the sofa to leave you alone reading What The Ladybird Heard. Like any normal adult. But persist, because children’s books are a great catalyst for a chats and cuddles.

Let your child point at the pictures, talk about what the objects are called and copy the words that you’re saying as you read (Eliot, 2015; Best Beginnings, 2017). You could even make up your own books, using photos or drawings with a few added words or your child’s name. Your child could join in when they’re a bit older.

Consider this your X Factor audition

Do put the CD in for a few rounds of Row Row Row Your Boat but why not sing along too. You may not be quite at a professional standard but your child LOVES their parent’s voice.

Be patient

Your baby’s first words will usually arrive between one and two years old but note the usually. As with everything, all children are different. So don’t get stressed if their friend from Tumble Tots seems close to discussing politics and yours hasn’t mastered the basics. You can help your toddler talk by encouraging them with the words they know and repeating them properly if they don’t get them quite right.

Listen

It sounds obvious but – like most people – your child doesn’t want to hear instructions, they want to have a conversation. So listen to them, give them eye contact and responses to show you’re invested, and let them chatter away (NHS Choices, 2016).

Have lots of one-to-one time

Think about maximising the time for one-to-one conversations with your child. For example, you could consider buying a buggy where the seat faces you, so you can talk and have eye contact. Age-appropriate TV programmes can help your child’s language but limit under twos to half an hour a day. Try to avoid having the TV on in the background (Talk to Your Baby, 2015). 

Further information

Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

To find out more about talking to your child, check out NCT’s guides here.