Early Interaction and Pre-verbal Skills Building

Check out the BBC’s Tiny Happy People for more information and video clips

Eye Contact

Good eye contact is important for good social interaction.  Encourage eye contact by placing toys near your face, sitting opposite your child and getting down to their level.  Eye contact can be encouraged in everyday routines, e.g. snack times, nappy-changing, dressing, story time.


  • Peep-po games

Played from behind furniture or when getting dressed, etc.

  • Ball game

When playing ‘catch’ wait for your child to look before you throw the ball, or hide it behind your back until you get eye contact.

  • Squeaky toys

Hold a toy near your face, press it to make a noise, stop and wait for your child to look at you, before you start again.

  • Finger puppets

Make or buy puppets, and place your hands up by your face. Use the puppets in nursery rhymes and songs.

  • Songs and rhymes

Sit your child on your knee so you are face to face.  Sing nursery rhymes that include the use of actions.  Pause on occasions to encourage your child to look for you to continue.


Copying is an important skill to learn as it involves co-operation between two people, which is necessary for communication.  Games that encourage copying, are particularly useful if your child is not yet talking.


  • Copying faces and sounds

Make funny faces in the mirror and make funny sounds, e.g. ‘ahhhh’, ‘oooo’ or ‘ba-ba-ba’.

Try to work on one sound at a time.  At any time during the day, respond to any sound your child makes and copy them.  Don’t force your child to copy sounds though.

  • Early copying

Copy your child’s play.  If they put on a hat, you copy.  Later, see if your child will do the same as you, e.g. pretend to eat with a spoon or comb your hair.

  • Toy bricks

Start by copying what your child does, e.g. if they bang two bricks together, you do the same.  Try to extend the play and see if your child copies, e.g. by building a tower.

  • Copying sounds

Clapping, banging a drum, tapping feet – make a rhythm and let your child copy you.  Help them to bang the same rhythm as you.

  • Housework

It can be fun for a child to copy things that are done around the house, e.g. brushing and dusting.


Turn taking can be incorporated into many different small group activities or games, including many of those described above.  Please also see activities suggested under Attention and Listening.  

  • Choose an activity that will make your child want to join in
  • Make sure they are watching you when you have your turn
  • Use language such as “your turn”/ “my turn” to encourage effective turn taking
  • Praise them when they demonstrate independent turn taking