Avoid distractions 

Give your child the chance to listen to what is going on around them by switching off the TV, radio and mobile phone. If it's noisy, close the doors or windows.    

This will give help your child to focus more on people talking to him/her.  

Show you value what your child says by repeating it 

Help your child use more words by adding to what they say.  For example, if your child says ‘bus' you say ‘big bus'.  If your child is using two words, then you could use three words.  For example, child says, ‘Dolly breakfast'; adult says, ‘Yes, dolly is eating breakfast.' 

Try not to ask your child too many questions 

Try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you're constantly testing the child. The best questions are those that challenge the child to think rather than give an instant answer, like yes or no. Too many questions can easily block the flow of natural conversation. 

Respond sensitively to your child's attempts to communicate 

The goal is to communicate and talk with the child, as partners who respond to each other.  Whether with a tiny baby who communicates through smiling, cooing and crying, or an older child who uses talk and gestures, the golden rule is to notice what the child is paying attention to or trying to explain, and develop talk about that. 

Get your child's attention first 

Get down to your child's level and engage their attention before speaking or asking a question. 

Young children find it difficult to listen and carry on with an activity at the same time. Saying their name first encourages them to stop and listen. 

Being down at your child's level makes it easier to talk to each other and to keep eye contact when talking together. 

Observe and comment on your child's current interests 

Describe what is happening as it is happening.  Think of ‘commenting' like ‘commentating' – as in what sport presenters do!  Watch and describe what you see your child is doing.  Commenting does not mean that there should be no silences when a child is playing. Pauses will help your child think about what they are going to say. 

Give your child time to talk to you 

Children often need time to put their thoughts together before answering, so give them longer to respond than you would with an adult. Make sure to maintain eye contact as you wait for them to complete their remark. 

Let your child be the leader 

Let your child choose the toy. Try copying or extending what they do.

Talk about what your child is interested in. Take turns to talk even if they are not talking yet. With very young children, simply imitate their words and sentences.  This will show them that you are valuing their words and will encourage them to keep on talking. 

Try to have a conversation with your child every day 

Make sure this time is quiet to help them focus on your words, undisturbed, and is not being masked by the television or phone. You may want to make time to share a book or sing nursery rhymes together. 

Get down to your child's level when talking to them 

It's easier to talk to each other if you are face to face. Whether it be playing on the floor or the grass, kneeling at bath time or sitting together at meal times.  Being down at your child's level makes it easier to keep eye contact when talking together. 

Use a full range of expression when talking with your child 

Speak in a lively, animated voice and use gestures and facial expressions to back up your words. You'll be giving more clues about what your words mean, which can be very useful if the child is struggling to understand language.  You'll also be demonstrating the importance of non-verbal communication. 

Repeat back your child's language in the correct way 

Praise the child's efforts, even if the results aren't perfect.  If a child makes an error in a word or sentence, simply say the correct version rather than pointing out the mistake.  For example, if the child says, ‘I goed to the park', you might say ‘Wow, so you went to the park'. 

Use open-ended questions 

Open-ended questions can give you opportunities to continue a conversation.  For example, ‘I wonder what the little boy wants?' can encourage children to respond in full sentences or even several sentences. In contrast, the closed question, ‘Does the little boy want the car?' leads only to ‘Yes', ‘No' or ‘I don't know.'  

Choices are great 

Give your child lots of choices in everyday activities e.g., at breakfast ‘do you want toast or cornflakes?', in the supermarket ‘shall we get apples or bananas?' 

Show your child the two items and see if they will point to the item or say the word. When they have chosen, reinforce their choice, for example, ‘You want milk!' 

Join in with your child's play 

Play is very important for language development. Your child will like you to join in and help them extend their ideas but not to take over. Sit near your child at their level and try copying what your child does as you play alongside. Talk about what your child is doing or looking at using words and short phrases. 

Use simple repetitive language 

Keep sentences short. Describe your everyday activities. As you talk about what you are doing (‘I'm washing the cup'), repeat your words slowly and clearly. Saying things more than once helps children to join in and pick up new words. 


Sharing books  

  • look at books with clear pictures or photographs of animals, objects or people
  • comment on what your child is looking at, leaving gaps so they can comment if they want to
  • books with lift the flaps are great for keeping them entertained
  • don't worry if they don't want to listen to the story or get bored. Follow your child's lead

Get creative

  • make a scrapbook with pictures of things that you know your child can name
  • you don't have to use a commercial scrapbook – an old exercise book will do perfectly well
  • look through the book with your child regularly so they have a chance to ‘show-off' what they know

Nursery rhymes

  • nursery rhymes are a great way to help children to learn new words and to learn about sounds and rhymes
  • choose ones with actions, for example, ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes' or ‘row, row, row your boat' to keep their interest
  • leave gaps at the end of lines to encourage your child to fill in the missing words

Out and about

  • try to visit places of interest such as parks, children's farms, supermarkets and department stores 
  • these provide lots to talk about and lots of new words for your child to hear

Suggestions of how to use the top tips: 

  • try out some of the tips in your everyday practice and share with colleagues 
  • copy, laminate and make into keyrings for practitioners to use  
  • have a top tip of the week for everyone to try out during play sessions 
  • share with parents and carers. Cut up and give out top tips to parents. Why not focus on one top tip per week? 

To access more information about this resource and the service related to it, you can review the related resources below.

Stammering advice for parents, carers and teachers
General advice for parents, teachers and carers of children who stammer.
Children's Speech and Language Therapy - frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions about children’s speech and language therapy appointments.

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