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Ready for school tips 18 to 36 months

Tips for parents and carers to talk together, play together and have fun together for toddlers aged 18 to 36 months old.

At this age and stage, you may notice 'baby' words starting to change and become clearer.

From 2 and a half years old you hopefully will hear words starting to be joined together to make sentences.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

In the morning

Help children learn more words by giving choice, for example:

  • Do you want orange or blackcurrant?
  • you can wear the Spider-Man socks or the Batman socks

Copy the actions of favourite TV characters when watching the shows. Name that action.


After you have asked your child a question or given an instruction, count to 10 in your head before repeating the sentence. This will give your child time to think about what you have said and try to respond.

Out and about

Encourage all ways to communicate as well as talking, for example:

  • pointing to something interesting
  • miming the action, for example drink, keys, phone, time, baby
  • hand up and palm forward for 'stop'
  • pointing and using the whole hand to explain directions
  • face and head movement to add meaning to what you say

Go on a listening walk. Talk together about all the sounds you can hear.

Say what you see when your child shows interest in something, for example, 'I see you have a giant slug on your shoe' and say the new words a little louder.

Play time

Now your child is old enough to start joining in with songs and rhymes, slow down your singing so they can keep up.

Stressing new words by saying it a little louder and slower than the rest of the sentence will help your child notice them.

Name the actions you see your child doing, as they are doing them, for example, climbing the stairs, kicking the ball really far.

Bath time

Play games with gestures like a very simple 'Simon says' or do as I'm doing. Gestures and actions help to keep your child focused and notice the message is for them. It also gives your child an extra way to be understood by others and boosts their confidence to communicate.

Talk about things you hear, see and touch. Name it. Describe it. Use the word in a simple sentence.


Talk about the rhyming words in songs and stories so your child can start to tune into the patterns of words.

Talk about what you have done today. Make up short stories about people or places you both know.

For more ideas talk to your health visitor, children’s centre, nursery or school about Derbyshire ECaT: Every Child a Talker.

UK physical activity guidelines factsheets for children are available from GOV.UK.