Let’s Talk Talking Babies! With Speech & Language Therapist Joanna Hardman

Today on the blog, we have teamed up with Joanna Hardman, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with 30 years' experience of early childhood communication development to learn some top tips for helping your little one develop their early communication skills. 


How Does My Baby Learn to Talk?!


There’s so much communication with your baby way before words appear, and in the early stages, Harvard research has shown it’s all about 'serve and return' with your baby. Serve and return describes the moments when communication goes back and forth from baby to caregiver just like a game of tennis - your baby 'serves' when they gurgle or babble, look, squirm or make gestures. They are communicating, and an adult picks up on that and responds right back, providing the 'return'. Being observant and responsive is the key to developing communication with your baby at this early stage; these interactions shape brain architecture, and neural connections are built and strengthened. Being face to face with your young baby about 30 cms away helps their eye gaze and focus, and your response encourages your them to communicate again.


Top Tips


1. Notice those ‘serves’ which will show you what interests your baby. If the child looks at something, look at it too.


2. Respond - a hug, a smiley face, saying something encourages your child to keep communicating.


3. Name it! If your child is looking at something, give them the words ‘yes, it’s Teddy!’. Research has shown that using a higher pitched tone of voice with stress on certain words helps your child stay focused and interested.


4. Take turns and wait. Your child need time to have a chance to respond back.


5. Babble back. If your baby is at the babbling stage you will begin to hear strings of babble that sound like talking; mirror these right back to your baby to encourage more. In this way you have a back and forth conversation.


6. Easy sounds made at the front of the mouth like ‘m’ and ‘b’ are easier for a baby to copy, so say lots of words beginning with these sounds like the important word ‘more’. Animal sounds can be easier for a baby to say like ‘baaah, baaah’ too.


7. Acknowledge endings  - your child will show you when they have had enough by turning or moving away. Use a phrase like ‘all done’ to show the end.  Remember, your child is leading the play.


8. Baby games like peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, rolling a ball or a car to each other all encourages serve and return interactions. Hooded towels (like this adorable one) are fantastic for hiding and reappearing! All important social development for young children happens through play.

Joanna Hardman

‘It’s impossible to over-estimate how important the early years are’ - Dr Jack Shonkoff, Harvard University.

As part of our speech & communication development week here at JoJo, we have created a channel for you to ask Jo any questions you might have about your child's speech development. You can write to: