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Communicating Kids – Birth to 1 year

This is a huge year for development and your baby will be growing and changing in so many ways. Here are some of the communication skills you can expect to see over the first year.

Social communication

Throughout their first year of life babies become more interested in others and recognise people they know. They start to turn to look when people speak, show more interest in looking at faces and they begin smiling and laughing.

They might use gestures such as waving bye-bye, pointing for things they want or clapping their hands. Babies at this age start to learn ‘anticipation’, showing they know what might happen next in games like peek-a-boo.



Babies in their first year begin to recognise the names of familiar people and objects (such as car, book, teddy) as well as routines and common phrases such “bath time” and “all gone”

They might look for objects when you ask for example, “where’s teddy?” and recognise familiar songs and games, like peek-a-boo.

Expressing themselves

At this age children express themselves mainly through sounds such as crying, happy sounds, babbling and squealing.

As they approach their first birthday they might begin making representational sounds such as “brum brum” or “woof woof”. Some first words should start emerging, these are likely to be family names for example “mummum”, or things they experience lots and they like, for example, a bottle or a favourite toy.


Babies at this age will be playing with different speech sounds and you can expect to hear lots of vowels as well as sounds, b, m and w. They will often use repeated sound patterns such as “bababa”, “mamama”, “dadada”. Any words they are using might only be recognisable to people who know the child the best.

What can I do?

Make communicating fun

  • Sing nursery rhymes and make up songs.
  • Use noises, such as animals noises and expressions such as “oh-no”.
  • Talk about what your child is interested in. Get down to their level and join in their play. Watch how they do things and join in with it.
  • Limit questions. Being asked lots of questions, like “what’s this?” is not fun for them.

Make communication meaningful

  • Talk to your baby about everyday things you are doing and comment on what they are doing.
  • Use simplified language. This helps them hear and learn key words.
  • Use lots of repetition.
  • Respond to their sounds and behaviours. Being listened to and getting a response teaches children how to listen to and respond to others. You can also interpret their sounds and behaviours, giving them words.
  • Use gestures and signs alongside your talking. Babies at this age are starting to copy actions like waving and high-five, they can also learn useful actions to be able to indicate if they want a drink or food.

Top tips

Make distraction-free time to sing songs and play games with actions. There are lots of nursery rhymes available online but accessing them this way does not give children all the extra input they get when singing with a person.

  • Sing ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ with all the actions.
  • Sing ’round and round the garden’ and pause before tickling to build their anticipation.
  • Play hide and boo with your child and with toys. Use a gesture and look around when saying ‘where’ such as “where’s teddy?… there he is!”.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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