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0 to 12 months: how to help your child's communication

Your baby loves following your cues.

Watch and tune into their facial expressions, eye and body movements. Ask yourself what your baby is thinking or feeling. What do they show interest in?

Watch videos from the HSE on helping your child’s communication

Things you can do


  • get face to face, make eye contact and smile – a distance of around arm’s length allows them to focus on your face

  • talk to them - babies love listening to your voice

  • copy their sounds and actions - this shows you are interested

  • use simple words to point out what they are interested in - for example, “You’re looking at the light”

  • repeat words to help them understand what the words mean - for example, "The cat!...The cat is sleeping!...Bye bye cat”

  • leave little pauses for them to take their turn - this shows them that you are interested in their thoughts and feelings

  • go at their pace - they need time to process new experiences and words

  • turn the TV and radio off when playing and talking to them - background noise can be confusing and overwhelming

  • comfort them when they cry - this helps them feel safe and secure and builds healthy self-esteem

Your baby's mental health

Social, emotional and behavioural development

Songs and nursery rhymes

Sing songs and nursery rhymes with your baby. It's a fun way to repeat words and use actions with words.

This helps their attention development.

Rhyme time fun leaflet -

Watch a video on using repetition to help your child's communication

Picture books

Look at a picture book together. Let your baby hold the book and talk about the pictures that interest them. For example, “You see the monkey!”

Good types of picture books include board books, pop-up books, or touch-and-feel books.

It does not matter if you do not read all the words in the book or if you do not look at every page. It's more important to have fun with your baby and build a connection.

Reading with your baby

Watch on video on how reading books helps your child’s communication skills

Activities to try

There are other activities you can try with your baby to help them develop speech and languages.

Play on the floor

Your baby can learn so much language through playing with you. At this stage, they might enjoy touching or holding toys with different feels, like soft blocks, cloth or a rattle.

Anything can turn into play. For example, putting things in a bowl or looking in a mirror together.

Pace your play to suit your baby. You can repeat lots of new words, for example “shake shake”.

Social games

Social games like “peek-a-boo” or "pat a cake" encourage your baby’s communication and concentration.

They will also have lots of fun playing tickles, cuddling, blowing raspberries, and counting toes with you.

Hiding games

Hide items under a blanket. Your baby will have fun revealing everyday items like “ball” “spoon” and “teddy”. Hide it again and let your baby reveal the same item.

These are ‘cause and effect’ games. They help your baby learn the back and forth of communication. They allow you to show them lots of useful words.

Other great cause and effect games include pop-up toys, musical instruments and bubbles.

Popping bubbles

Bubbles help your baby to practise looking, tracking and waiting. Pause after all the bubbles are popped and see if your baby communicates with a look or noise - then blow more bubbles.

Say words like “pop pop pop”, “more” and “ready, steady, go”.

Water play

Water play helps your baby's senses. Use a plastic box or a baking tray with just a little bit of water. Put some toys and sponges in the water.

You will find lots of opportunities to repeat words such as “splash” “squeeze” and “quack quack”. Putting towels on the ground can help make clean-up a lot easier.

Speak your native language

Talk to your child in the language you are most comfortable with.

This will

  • support their understanding and talking
  • give them the skills to learn other languages more easily, including. English

You and your partner may use different languages at home. But children can adapt to different languages quickly.

Page last reviewed: 29 March 2023
Next review due: 29 March 2026