Babies don’t talk. You don’t have to worry about speech for the first year or two, right? WRONG!
No, babies aren’t born with any language skills and it will be about a year before the baby actually says his first word, but the language learning process begins at birth. The foundations in speech and language you give your child from his or her first weeks will affect his development for years to come. Babies are constantly listening, watching and learning to interact with others. At three to six months, they begin to experiment with sounds and back-and-forth interaction with their caretakers in preparation for the real language that will be emerging at around a year.
Here are a few things a parent can do to encourage speech and language development:
-Interact with your baby a lot. Talk, coo, and babble at him. Make happy or silly faces at him and watch how he reacts.
-When your baby starts to coo or babble, imitate him. See if you can get a “conversation” going by taking turns making sounds.
-Any talking to your baby or toddler is great, but the best way to encourage language growth is to make your sentences just a little more complicated than his are. If baby points and says, “ball,” you might say, “Yes, big ball,” That will give him a speech model to grow towards. When you speak in very long, adult sentences, it is just too much for him to take in.
When your child wants something, model the appropriate words to him. “Juice, please.” “Want up?” If he is able, require him to say the words. Don’t respond to grunts and pointing if your child is capable of more.
Read, read, read to him! Reading the book as it is written is great, but some of the time, you might just talk about the pictures, or name the pictures and see if he can imitate you. As he grows older, talk about the story and pictures with him.
Recite nursery rhymes and sing with your child. You can even make up little rhymes and songs about your daily activities—buckling up in the car, changing a diaper, and so on. The rhyming and repetition is great language stimulation and fun for the child as well.
Play pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo games with your child. Again—rhymes, language, and playing all in one!
My children always enjoyed listening to music during naptime or in the car–lullabies, nursery rhymes, and other child-appropriate listening fare.
Most of all, enjoy your child! Spend time with him or her, using language whenever appropriate and your child is likely to reach his full potential!