“I love the sound of your voice. I could hear well even before I was born, and when I was first born I already recognised the voices of the people I live with. I love it when you talk, when you make nonsense noises, and when you sing. I get frightened if there is too much shouting or arguing.
When you talk to me I copy you. At first I can only make a few sounds, but the more you talk to me the more I can make sounds into words. I need you to tell me everything right from the start. I know nothing, so everything I learn in my life will be built on what you are teaching me now.
I need you to listen to me as well. Remember that my brain works more slowly than yours, so it will take me time to respond when you speak to me. When I make sounds to you, it really helps the connections in my brain if you look straight at me and copy the sounds back to me. Then I know you are listening to me, which makes me feel I matter.
As I get older, take notice of what I am trying to say to you. Help me to tell you how I feel, so that I learn to manage my feelings by talking about them.
Reading is a great way to talk to me. Looking at a book together helps me to focus my eyes, to concentrate, and to think in a logical way. I can enjoy looking at a book with you right from the start of my life. And helping me to be interested in books and reading gives me a good start for learning through all my life.”

Some suggestions:

  • Start by copying your baby’s sounds and generating new ones (from ‘Ma ma ma ‘ to ‘Ga ga ga’). The first talking doesn’t have any words.
  • Use as many rhymes, poems or songs as you can – to your baby you are the world’s greatest singer!
  • Read to your baby regularly, even when they are very young. Simple rhymes and rhythms will hold their attention.
  • Talk to your baby about what they are experiencing. “Can you feel the soft toy?” “Did you see the cat?” “You’re enjoying your milk this morning.”
  • Provide a running commentary on your own life. Tell your baby about colours, count the steps you climb or the socks and towels as you do the washing.
  • Keep your ‘sharp’ voice for when you are warning a baby about something dangerous.


Any words will help to build your baby’s brain. Pop songs, a shopping list or the writing on the cereal packet are more meaningful than Shakespeare to young children.

Research shows that children’s language development by age two is the single most reliable indicator of later success, and that this is directly
linked to the words a child hears. Children from homes providing a positive learning environment are likely to have heard on average 45
million words by the age of four. Children from homes providing a poorer learning environment are likely to have heard 13 million words in the same
period. These differences are highly persistent in patterns of attainment throughout childhood.

All sorts of verbal communication can be included in the category of ‘talking’. Talking builds brain patterns for language development, cognitive function and social interaction.
Words are therefore vital to the child’s pre-cognitive patterning. Strengthening the language centres of the brain also improves self-regulation, as feelings are processed through expressing them in language.
Listening is also a vital part of verbal communication. Parents listen to the baby, 
and then echo the sounds the baby is making, which reinforces the development of meaningful speech. Being listened to with interest also creates brain patterns for selfworth and self-esteem, which further reinforce the capacity for self-regulation.
Reading with young children provides a great opportunity for talking and listening, as well as promoting physical contact and developing interest in the written word.
Singing is also a wonderful way to communicate words to a baby. And if the parents are becoming stressed they can be encouraged to switch from talking to singing, which may relax them and will reduce the stress in their voice as they communicate with the child.

Different ways of using words at different times or on different occasions can help the baby build pre-cognitive brain patterns such as internal awareness of time, cause and effect, or distinguishing between fact and fantasy. For example

    • poems at settling down times
    • encouraging or upbeat tones of voice to get energy levels going after periods of sleep
    • special tones of voice or special words used when things go wrong
    • stories and make-believe arratives

Parents can be encouraged to notice how a child responds differently to different voices (male or female, older or younger, loud or soft), and how they respond to the same voice used differently (talking or singing, higher or lower, louder or softer).


Nicola Theobald, Lead for Early Years Partnerships

Kate Hubble, Early Years Improvement Officer

Kate Irvine, Early Years Improvement Officer, Early Years Consultant

Beth Osborne, Early Years Consultant

Ali Carrington, Early Years Consultant

Anna Morgan, Early Years Consultant

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