Whether your child can talk yet or not, it’s important that you spend time talking with them. Research has shown that the number of words children hear in their first days, months and years have a big impact on their development in later life. Using household activities can be a great way to help develop language.

Follow their lead

Following the child’s lead is important in terms of brain development, and the development of language. This helps children to develop the sense that what is going on in their mind is interesting and important to their carers. It motivates them to learn actively and engagingly rather than by repetition or simply hearing words spoken.

You don’t need to ‘teach’ your child, you can help them learn just by noticing what they are interested in, following what they are doing, and being curious.

Involving children in activities that they show interest in around the house, as you get on with daily tasks such as housework, feeding the pets or deciding what’s for lunch are all ways to encourage language and cognitive development.

Help your baby's brain to build

Early development lays the foundation for your child's later outcomes such as doing their best at school, mental health, and getting on with others.

A child’s 'serve and return' interaction with adults provides experiences that are unique to the child’s personality. Sere and return is when you pick up on your baby's cues and interact back and forth with them – as though playing a game of tennis. This could include copying gestures, gaze, sounds or facial expressions, and giving names to what they are doing or looking at. These interactions build on their interests, capabilities, and initiative and help their brain to build. 

The Harvard Centre have explained serve and return into 5 easy steps.

Giving children choices

Giving a child the choice between two different activities, even if both are considered to be a household chore, gives them a sense of control in what they are doing and helps build their confidence.

There is much that is outside of a child’s control so it can support wellbeing and promote resilience to give children some choices in the things that can be controlled.

For example, you could ask them ‘would you like to use the brush or hold the dustpan?’, or to offer them age-appropriate responsibilities so that they feel there is something they can contribute.

It is important to offer praise for the things that are done, as well as letting them know that mistakes are okay.

Household activities to help language develeopment

Washing clothes

There’s a novelty in watching the washing machine go round – this is a perfect opportunity to involve children in the process.


  • Watching the washing machine go round – pointing out each person’s clothing
  • Feeling the vibration as it spins
  • Making sounds with the vibration


  • Sorting the washing into colours and naming items of clothing
  • Folding the clean laundry
  • Putting away – ‘who’s socks are these?’


Sorting out boxes and bottles into the recycling can be an opportunity to talk to a child about what’s on the box, what happens to recycling and why it’s important.


  • Vocabulary – ‘all gone’, ‘empty’
  • Building with empty packages
  • Stacking


  • Sorting materials – plastic, paper etc
  • Colours of recycling bins
  • Sizes of packages 

Tidying up

Tidying up is great preparation for school and nursery, which will often have ‘tidy up time’. It’s also (sometimes) a good incentive – if they tidy up they can have lunch or play with something new! 

Infants and toddlers

  • Naming
  • Sorting – these go together
  • Counting
  • Colours

Extra tips:

When naming items, for example when washing up or tidying up, start with things your child has heard before or can say themselves. Add in new items one at a time. Lots of repetition from you will help your child learn new names.

Do you have any books that talk about any of these activities? Looking at a book together where the characters do similar activities can help you talk more. ‘Do you remember when we read about Maisie tidying up?’

If your child isn’t keen to join in with the activity, you can still talk about what you are doing. ‘Mummy has run out of clean socks! Let’s see how many socks there are here – 1,2,3… If we put them into the washing machine now, tomorrow they will be nice and clean and I can wear them again’.

 More Home-Start Tips For Parents