Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999

We offer tailored content specific to your area. Check below to find your local area.

Choose your location for articles and services where your live:

Talking to your baby – Once upon a nursery rhyme

When babies are learning the amazing skill of talking, it’s not just about mastering sounds. Babies also have to learn to listen, look, take turns, use gestures and expressions appropriately and understand and respond to what others say. By taking the time to enjoy stories, songs and rhymes with your baby, you’ll be providing a great foundation for them to become confident communicators.

Picture books

It’s never too early to start enjoying simple picture books with your baby. It’s a wonderful way to build a loving relationship, increase their language skills and help them develop a lifelong love of reading. Research shows that sharing books and reading for pleasure helps children do well at school and increases their wellbeing, so make looking at books and reading part of your daily routine from the start if you can.

Very young babies like black and white books with bold pictures which help them strengthen their eye muscles. They will also grow to enjoy sensory and board books with different textures and flaps to lift. Wait to see what they’re looking at and talk to them about it. They may want to lift a flap over and over again and this can be a fun game. By saying what’s underneath each time, you’ll be helping them to remember that word.

Talk to your health visitor about Bookstart – it’s the national programme that provides free reading packs for all babies and pre-school children. Babies in their first year will get a pack containing free books as well as other fun resources. This will usually be given to you during your health visiting 6 week baby check.

This film provides lots of ideas on the kinds of books, songs and rhymes you can introduce right from the start to help your baby learn to communicate.

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

Songs and action rhymes

Songs like ‘Pat-a-cake’, ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘Incy Wincey Spider’ and ‘The wheels on the bus’ are great to sing with babies as they have simple actions. At the end of the song, pause because your baby may well show you they want another turn by clapping, holding out their hands or repeating one of the actions. As well as enjoying these songs at home, many Children’s Centres and libraries run play sessions that involve singing and rhymes. Not only are these groups fun for babies, they’re a great way to meet other new parents in your area.

Useful links

Page last reviewed: 23-03-2023

Next review due: 23-03-2026