Do you know, talking to your baby from a day old is very important? Every word you say builds your child’s brain. During the first year and a half of life, children spend most of their time with their parents. Interactions between parents and children provide the main opportunities for small children to learn about the world around them. But just how important is it to talk to babies before they even understand what you are saying? Does the number of words said to a child during the first three years of life really matter to the development of language skills? Your baby’s first year will be a flurry of changes – and not just diapers. From the first smiles, gurgles, and coos to learning to say “mama” or “dada,” babies love to communicate with their own form of baby talk. And they hope you will “baby talk” right back.
All through this first year, you can do a lot to encourage your baby’s communication skills. And it’s easy. All you need do is smile, talk, sing, and read to your baby. Why focus on communicating with your baby? Because early speech and language skills are associated with success in developing reading, writing, and interpersonal skills, both later in childhood and later in life. Read on and find out whys to talk to your baby :
Smile and Pay Attention
Long before they can speak clearly, babies understand the general meaning of what you are saying. They also absorb emotional tone. Encourage baby’s early attempts to communicate with you with loving attention. Smile often at your baby, especially when he or she is cooing, gurgling, or otherwise vocalizing with baby talk. Look at your baby as he or she babbles and laughs, rather than looking away, interrupting, or talking with someone else. Be patient as you try to decode your infant’s baby talk and nonverbal communication, like facial expressions, gurgling, or babbling sounds that could signal either frustration or joy. Make time to give your baby lots of loving attention, so he or she can “speak” to you with his or her baby talk, even when you are busy with other tasks.
Imitate Your Baby
Right from the start, baby talk should be a two-way thing. By imitating your baby, you will send an important message: what he or she is feeling and trying to communicate matters to you. Have back-and-forth conversations in baby talk to teach your baby the give-and-take of adult conversation. Imitate baby’s talk- “ba-ba” or “goo-goo” – then wait for him or her to make another sound, and repeat that back. Do your best to respond, even when you don’t understand what your baby is trying to say. Reinforce communication by smiling and mirroring facial expressions. Because gestures are a way babies try to communicate, imitate your baby’s gestures, as well. This will make them feel loved and happy too.
Talk Often to Your Baby
Babies love to hear you talk, especially to them, and especially in a warm, happy voice. Babies learn to speak by imitating the sounds they hear around them. So the more you talk to your baby, the faster he or she will acquire speech and language skills. Many adults use a special tone of voice when talking baby talk — a high-pitched voice with exaggerated expression. Engage your baby’s listening skills by talking often to him or her throughout the day, narrating your activities together. Talk as you are feeding, dressing, carrying, and bathing your baby, so he or she begins to associate these sounds of language with everyday objects and activities. Repeat simple words like “mama” and “bottle” often and clearly so your baby begins to hear familiar words and associate them with their meaning.
How Babies Learn to Talk
Parents often wonder where their child’s speech ability is on the learning curve. The timeline for each child varies greatly: Some babies can say a few words at 12 months, but others don’t talk until they’re 18 months old — and then spout short sentences.
At 1 to 3 months: Babies already love to hear the sound of your voice and may smile, laugh, get quiet, or get excited and wave their arms when on seeing you or when you talk or sing to them. Your baby talk usually starts with cooing and making a bubbling sound, with some vowel sounds, like “ooh,” appearing at around two months. It’s not too early to start reading to your baby. Being read to helps stimulate the developing brain. Many babies are soothed by music, and begin to recognize simple songs by reacting with smiles, waving arms and legs.
At 4 to 7 months: Babies now realize that their baby talk has an impact on their parents. They make more noise and watch for their parents’ reaction. Babies experiment with more sounds and intonations. They begin to raise and lower the pitch of their voices as they babble, just as adults do when asking a question or adding emphasis. As you introduce your baby to simple, short words like “cup” and “ball,” hold up the object to show that it’s related to your speech. Read colorful picture books to your baby. Point to the pictures, and name simple objects to reinforce his early development speech and model the importance of language and reading. Practice using short words and then pausing. This will allow your baby to respond with his or her own baby talk and encourage the give-and-take interaction that’s needed for adult conversation.
At 8 to 12 months: It’s a unique joy for parents to hear their baby say “mama” or “dada” for the first time. But the first few times may actually be accidental. Baby talk at this age is still primarily a hit-or-miss playing with sounds like “ga-ga”, “da-da,” and “ba-ba”. Smile, face your baby, and continue to repeat simple words clearly throughout the day. This will help your baby’s growing brain to store the sounds and meanings of words for everyday objects. At this age, babies love one-on-one interaction with you. They also love games and songs with language, like “like ba ba black sheep” or if you are happy and you know clap your hands”.
See Your Baby’s Doctor If…
During the first year, baby should respond to your baby talk by cooing, gurgling, and beginning to babble back. He should respond to “no”, to his or her own name, and to simple requests like “come here”.
So while normal language development has wide variation, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your child’s growth. Have your baby’s speech evaluated at each well-baby checkup, and talk with your baby’s doctor if you’re concerned about delayed speech or a hearing problem. And remember: Your baby loves to hear your voice, so don’t be embarrassed by your own “silly” baby talk.