0-3 years: Language and play advice

Children need to play and talk.  They learn and develop by doing things and by exploring the world around them.  Babies and toddlers learn to speak by listening to you so talk to your child as much as you can. 

Enjoy playing with your children.  They will love having your company and attention.  You can have fun helping them and watching them learn and grow. 

Play feeds children's curiosity, teaches them concentration and helps them get on with people.  Play can be outside or indoors, active or sitting down, making things or make-believe. 


  • Talk & think
  • Make friends
  • Share & take turns
  • Gain confidence and self-esteem
  • Solve problems & learn to manage
  • Discover interests & skills
  • Cope with rules


Join in, but don't take over

Let your child lead the play - decide what to play, and what he/she wants to happen

You don't need expensive toys

Young children like playing with cardboard boxes, wooden spoons and other ordinary household objects.  They love to copy things you do.

Let them play make-believe games

Young children love to dress up, chatter and become another person or animal in their games.

Play number games at any time

Count as you climb steps, put peas on the plate, eat biscuits, pass lamp posts.

Children love to paint, scribble and draw with brightly coloured crayons and felt pens.

It helps them to control their hands, get ideas, be creative and become confident.  Keep plenty of scrap paper so they can use as much as they want.

Talk to your child as he/she plays

Telling them what you see and asking them things about it will show them you are interested and help them think about what they are doing.

Have fun & games as a family too

Swimming trips, cooking sessions, picnics, outings or playing ball games in the park all help families to talk and laugh together.

Sharing books & stories

Will help your child talk and listen and get them interested in reading later on.

Switch off the TV

Children need to talk to real people and do real things hands-on.  They learn language from you, not the telly.

Stay close by for reassurance but don't over-protect

Many games, such as climbing, teach how far it's safe to go.

Don't tease young children

It's an adult's idea of fun but can worry and confuse young children.


  • Let them know you enjoy it
  • Let them choose what to play
  • Change any hard rules to make it easier
  • Learning to lose takes time - be tolerant
  • Be encouraging - Well Done! Good Idea! Lovely Picture! You kicked that ball really hard!
  • Stay cool and learn to love mess - use aprons, newspaper or plastic sheets
  • Let them make mistakes - that's how they learn!


Is the information on this page correct? If not, please let us know.