Activities to encourage speech, language and communication

Birth to 2 years:

  • Encourage the child making sounds such as ‘da’ ‘ba’ ‘ma’
  • Maintain eye contact with the child, imitate their sounds, laughter and facial expressions
  • Talk to the child during feeding, bathing and dressing. Tell the child what you are doing, where you going and who you will see.
  • Teach your child to imitate your actions such as waving bye, blowing kisses and when playing games for example, peek a boo or itsy-bitsy-spider.
  • Introduce animal sounds
  • Read to the child
  • Name the colours
  • Count

2 to 4 years

  • Use clear and simple speech
  • Repeat what your child said indicating you understood. Expand on what they said.
  • Sing simple songs and read nursery rhymes and books
  • Make a scrapbook of favourite and familiar things by cutting out pictures. Group them into categories, such as things to ride on, things to eat, things for dessert, fruits, things to play with. Count items pictured in the book.
  • Ask your child questions such as ‘are you a boy?’ ‘what colour is the grass’
  • Expands the child’s vocabulary. Name body parts, fruits, vegetable etc

4 to 6 years

  • Give your full attention when the child is speaking
  • Ensure the child has your attention before you speak
  • Acknowledge and praise the attempts to speak
  • Continue to expand their vocabulary and use the word in a simple context

Take advantage of daily activities. For example, while in the kitchen, encourage your child to name the utensils needed. Discuss the foods on the menu, their colour, texture, and taste. Which foods do you like? Which do you dislike? Who will clean up?

Copyright Lifestart 2018

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        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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