Speech and language

Communication is the way we connect and interact with people. It is part of our identity and culture. It helps us to learn, interact with others and to make friends. In this section you'll find information about typical communication development in young children and ideas for supporting them (in the 'tips' section of each page). You'll also find suggestions about what to do if you are worried about your child's communication development.

Father reading to his son

Communication is much more than words. Communication is the way we connect and interact with people. It is part of our identity and culture. It helps us to learn, interact with others and to make friends. 

Hearing is a critical part of a child's communication development so it's important to identify any loss as early as possible.

Get face to face with your baby. Reduce background noise when playing and talking with your baby. Copy your baby's babbling and take turns in a 'conversation'. Talk to your baby when doing things together.

Spend time looking at picture books and photos and talking about what you see. Sing and do the actions for action songs/waiata. Talk about what you see when you are out and about.

Play with your child - join in with what they are doing or what interests them. Make sure you're face to face when playing with your child - you may need to sit on the floor. Share your family's stories, songs/waiata and poems.

Give your child plenty of time to speak. Focus on what they are saying, not how they are saying it. Have fun reading books. Involve your child with lots of everyday routines – talk about what you're doing.

When your child says something that is not clear, say it back for them so they hear it the right way rather than asking them to repeat it. Have fun with words and sounds. Talk with your child about exciting things that are going to happen. 

Look for opportunities to increase the number of different words your child uses. Make your own books with your child. Play games that help with taking turns and concentrating. 

Show your child that you are interested in what they say, not how they say it. Help your child to learn how to say tricky sounds by repeating them correctly as naturally as possible. 

Communication skills are strongly linked to the development of reading and writing. The better a child's conversational skills now, the easier it will be for them to understand what they read later on.

Stuttering is when people seem to get stuck on, or repeat, sounds when talking. Show your child that you are interested in what they say, not how they say it.

If your child is having difficulty with their voice, try to reduce situations where your child is yelling or talking over the top of noise. Encourage periods of quiet activities to give the voice a rest.

The content in this section has been produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and adapted from 'Much more than words | Manuka takoto, kawea ake'. If you would like to look at anything in more detail, a listing of references might be a good starting point.

Some questions and answers to help you decide whether your child needs a referral to the Ministry of Education for their communication, speech or language development.