How can you help your child to start talking?

Award-winning speech therapist Nicola Lathey shares her top tips for encouraging your child's speech and language development.

Nicola Lathey, an award winning speech therapist, and Tracey Blake, a top London journalist, are the authors of Small Talk and Small Talk: At the Park, books designed to help you encourage the natural stages of language development in your child's crucial early years. We asked Nicola to tell us more about these speech boosting baby books to get your little ones babbling away!

I am extremely passionate about the early years of language development, especially the first 18 months of life. Most people think that the fun only begins when a baby utters their first words but that couldn't be further from the truth. Communication begins in the womb when babies settle to the sound of their mother's voice. Their first vocal communication is crying and parents learn to identify what each type of cry means. At around eight weeks, a baby starts to make vocalisations and parents can 'join in' with their conversation using 'The Art of Turn Taking' – the parent and baby taking turns to 'talk' to each other.

Babbling begins at five months and babies go through three stages of babbling, continuous babble 'ga ga ga ga', variegated babble 'ah da' or 'bah ga' and conversational babble which sounds like the baby is speaking a in a foreign language, before first word appear at around twelve to fourteen months.

When I became a mum I found very few baby books that tapped into the area between visually stimulating black and white patterned books and first word/sentence books, so I set out to write some, focusing on the baby's language development before twenty four months. Hey presto – now we have At the Park.

Small Talk: At the Park is a follow-up to Small Talk, a parent guide to boosting speech and language skills from birth to four years. Every page in At the Park is specially designed to encourage a baby to use a sound, a word or a sign. The illustrations are hearty and bold, and the text is catchy and repetitive so that the baby gets hooked in to the rhythm of the story and begins to join in in whichever way they can. The parent models the words, sounds and signs which they want the baby to copy. This type of focus on communication unlocks the baby's desire want to communicate more which gives the baby the very best possible start in life.

For more information on getting the most out of these books, watch our video below:

Find out more about how storytime can help your child's speech development.

Small Talk

Book cover for Small Talk

This book will help you encourage and stimulate the natural stages of language development in the crucial early years. Featuring lots of practical ‘Small Talk Time’ ideas – quick, fun language games to play with your baby, toddler and preschooler – you will feel confident you know what to do to enhance your child’s communication from birth to help them reach their potential and give them the best head start for lifelong learning. After all, a parent is a child’s best teacher.

Small Talk at the Park

Book cover for Small Talk at the Park

In Small Talk: At the Park see how expressions, gestures and repetition of simple first words can help early conversations to blossom while you are out and about. By encouraging babies to join in, you'll soon experience the joy of their very first words and phrases. With lively illustrations by Ailie Busby.