How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: Check His Progress

The first 3 years of your child’s life are filled with rapid language development and learning. Keep an eye on how he’s doing. Be aware of the progress he’s making, and check from time to time that he’s moving forward.

Use this checklist to make sure your child’s language skills keep developing in line with other children of his age. If you’re worried about his progress, talk to your healthcare practitioner, whether it’s a health visitor or a GP. They should refer you to a speech and language therapist who can carry out an assessment to see how your child is getting on, looking in detail at his progress.
Up to one in 10 children have difficulty with learning language skills, and this can cause problems. Children with language problems find it harder to make friends, to learn to read and to make the most of their education. Use your child’s early years to give him a head start.

At 3 months

  1. Loud noises startle your child.
  2. He gives his first social smiles, especially when he hears his mother’s voice. These are ‘real’ smiles, with eye contact that sets them apart from the smiles of a tiny baby.
  3. He copies some of the sounds you make.
  4. He turns when he hears a noise.
  5. He imitates some of your facial movements, such as sticking out his tongue when he sees yours. This reaction takes a few seconds, so give him plenty of time.

At 6 months

  1. He turns when you say his name, recognising it.
  2. He watches your face intently when you talk to him.
  3. He makes many different sounds, not all of them recognisable as sounds from English.
  4. He puts a series of sounds together as ‘babble’.
  5. He recognises emotions from your tone of voice, and may respond when you say ‘no’.
  6. He shouts, gurgles and coos, enjoying his own noises.

At 1 year

  1. He may become clingy and cry for his parents when they leave, as he recognises they are different from strangers and are important to him.
  2. He finds hidden objects, when he’s seen you hide them, even when they’re completely out of sight.
  3. He recognises a picture of an object and looks at it when you say its name.
  4. He clearly understands and responds to ‘no’.
  5. He uses simple gestures, such as shaking his head or waving “bye-bye”.
  6. He may say ‘da da’ or “ma ma” with meaning.
  7. He may copy words you say.

At 2 years

  1. He concentrates hard on what he’s doing and ignores everything else.
  2. He becomes excited to be with other children.
  3. He tries pretend play.
  4. He points to named objects.
  5. He says several words and 2 word phrases.
  6. He follows instructions of 2-3 words.
  7. He knows the names of body parts and many objects.

At 3 years

  1. He listens to what you say, but is easily distracted.
  2. He starts to take turns in games.
  3. He separates from his parents without becoming too disturbed.
  4. He enjoys routine and becomes upset at sudden changes.
  5. He enjoys pretend play.
  6. He knows dozens of words for common objects.
  7. He uses 3-4 word sentences, but with immature grammar.
  8. He can say his own name.
  9. Many of his words are understandable, but he makes plenty of mistakes.

At 4 years

  1. He stops what he’s doing to listen to what you say.
  2. He plays cooperatively with other children.
  3. He becomes far more independent.
  4. He knows some colours and numbers.
  5. He can retell parts of a story.
  6. He speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand him.
  7. He uses 4-5 word sentences, though still makes grammar errors.

At 5 years

  1. He can listen while he carries on with his activity.
  2. He enjoys his friends and copies their behaviour.
  3. He sings and dances.
  4. He understands some time concepts.
  5. He uses a range of past and future tenses.
  6. He can tell stories.
  7.  If you’d like to read more, check out the Kindle eBook via the thumbnail.

Happy Talk

This Easter, I was pondering the things that make us happy and wondering, as ever, what real happiness is.

I took a peek at the newest addition to our family, now seven weeks old, and there was one answer, at least. There’s no doubt that a baby who’s just finished a feed, has a clean nappy and warm bed, not to mention plenty of cuddles, is in heaven.

So what happens to us as we get older? Why do we lose that fabulous feeling of wellbeing, of contentment and of just being happy in our own skin?

I can’t help thinking that the things we tell ourselves and our children may have a lot to do with it. Have you listened to adults talking to children? So often our conversation is full of ‘don’t.’

Don’t pull the cat’s tail. Don’t run into the road. Don’t talk with your mouth full.

It goes on throughout our lives. We’re always talking about the things we can’t do and the sad truth is that if there’s one thing that makes me want to do something, it’s being told I can’t.

I went to our local pet shop the other day. There was a notice on the fish tanks.

Don’t bang on the glass. Now, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would want to bang on the glass. Why would I? But when I read that, I could barely contain myself. Would it really hurt the fish? How about just a tiny tap? No-one would notice, after all.

Then I saw another notice, next to a pile of bags full of gravel.

Don’t climb on the gravel. I’m sure you get the picture. I suddenly knew exactly how it felt to be a child again, tantalised by suggestions of things I mustn’t do. I had to leave before I disgraced myself.

Telling us not to do things so often has the opposite effect. It can even be dangerous. Remember that classic instruction to anyone dangling at the end of a rope halfway up a cliff face: Don’t look down?

Wouldn’t it be great to turn all those negatives into positives? It’s not hard to do. We could change,

Don’t pull the cat’s tail into stroke his head gently. Don’t run into the road, could be see if you can keep inside the lines on the pavement. And don’t look down could be (much safer) look up to see how close the next handhold is.

So I’m setting myself a challenge today. No more negatives: only positives. I will avoid the words don’t at all costs.

I will tell my son to drive safely. I will point out to a child how much he will enjoy talking very, very quietly and I will tell myself to remember to buy the milk.

Perhaps you could join me in the challenge? Maybe when we get into the habit of being positive, we’ll find again some of that contentment we knew when we were babies. Even more importantly, maybe our happy talk will help our children to grow up to be happier people.

If you’d like to know more about happiness and communication, please visit or join my new Facebook group, Happy Talk.

Learning to talk is child’s play

Watching children play is such fun. They love to offer pretend cups of tea, or bath teddy and put him to bed. It’s even more fun to join in, and the great thing is that you’re helping them learn to talk.

Pretending is so important to a child’s developing language skills. There’s good reason for this.

Language is a set of symbols
When your toddler offers you a cup of pretend tea from a miniature cup, and you pretend to drink it, nobody is fooled. He knows as well as you do that there is no real tea in the cup. What’s more, he knows you know.

The cup represents or symbolizes a real cup of tea.

The word cup is a symbol that stands for a real cup, just as the toy cup does. Toys are symbols, so are pictures and so and words.

Although language is something that most of us learn easily, in fact it’s a very sophisticated system of symbols. A word stands for something, just as a doll stands for a person and a picture of a toy car stands for a real car.

When you think of it like that, it’s amazing that any of us learn to talk at all: never mind reading or writing.

We can help
Parents and grandparents can really help a baby learn about symbols.

The learning starts as he concentrates on one toy, staring at it, feeling it, sucking it. He doesn’t need a cot full of stuff at this stage. He can only think about one thing at a time.

When he loses interest, offer him something else. This makes sure he isn’t bombarded with too many things at once.

Then he starts to play with two things at a time, putting bricks in boxes and banging his rattle on his cot. This is the next step on the journey to language.

Soon you’ll start to see real ‘pretending’ as he uses a toy teacup to pretend to drink. At first he pretends to drink himself or offers a drink to you, but then he’ll offer a drink to teddy.

Now you can see that teddy is like a real person to him. He might kiss him, wash him, and out him to bed.

Here’s where grownups really come into their own. This kind of play is for anyone. Even uncles who claim ‘I don’t know how to talk to children’ enjoy tea parties, dressing doll games and pretending to bath teddy and put him to bed.

If you’d like to read more about language and communication skills, check out How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter, our Amazon Kindle eBook (you can also read it on iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac…     BUY NOW for only £5.66.