We know that parents and caregivers play a vital role in a child’s development of speech and language. Research shows that parents who speak to and read to their children have a bigger vocabulary and improved grammar.
Here are 10 top tips to help you nurture your baby's language skills from the start:
1. Talk to Them
One of the quickest ways that you can help your baby to learn language is to narrate the day and the things you get up to. Tell them what you’re going to do next, what you are going to see, and ask them questions.
Baby talk is the way that we talk in a higher tone, with simple sentences and longer vowels. It generally comes as an automatic reflex with babies and studies have shown that babies generally respond better to it. The key is to use actual language and exaggerate it (e.g. “Looook! Kitteeeee!”) rather than using nonsense syllables.
There is no time too early to start reading to your baby. A strong indicator of future reading success is how much parents spend reading with their baby. You can start by reading simple board books and then move on to picture books as the child grows up. Your local library or children’s group may run story time groups that will help your child develop a love of reading.
3. Listen to Music
Playing music to children has been proven to help them learn about the world around them, especially with lively songs, like “The Wheels on the Bus”. Even young infants can recognize the different beats and the rhythm of language.
“Babies love music and movement,” says Amanda Stapleford, a health writer at Writinity.com and Lastminutewriting.com. “Studies have also suggested that singing to your baby can reduce the likelihood of any language problems later in life.”
Have some fun creating and making up elaborate stories with your baby. Make up the characters, adventure and setting. Try to build stories that engage your child’s interests and aren’t too scary.
5. Be Led By Them
Watch for your baby’s interests. If they are looking or engaging with a picture in a book, talk to them about it. If they seem to enjoy looking at animals, show them more and talk about all the different types. Ask questions and interact with them.
Pay attention to your baby’s body language. If they raise their arms up, ask them if they want to be picked up. If they gargle at you, gargle back. If they look into your eyes, engage with them. These instant responses reassure your baby that they are being heard and seen and it motivates them to keep trying.
Don’t correct or criticize their attempts to speak. Instead, encourage them and heap on lots of praise. Repeat their words back to them with the correct word or pronunciation.
7. Day Trips
“If you’re getting out of the house with your child, try to choose places that give lots of opportunities for conversation, like the zoo, a museum or aquarium,” suggests Jack Ockenden, a child development blogger at Draftbeyond.com and Researchpapersuk.com. “It will open up their eyes to the world outside and encourage them to learn all the names of the fun things they’ve seen.”
8. Have A Conversation
When talking to your baby, make sure to pause between sentences to give them an opportunity to respond. Ask them questions. Hold up a few choices and see how they respond.
Babies can start interacting in back-and-forth conversations from as young as three months old. They learn to listen for pauses before responding with a coo or a smile, or even physical movements like kicking and reaching out for you.
9. Build Connections
You can really strengthen your child’s vocabulary by pointing at objects and naming them out loud. For example, show them a picture of a dog and say “dog” to help them make the association. This could be when you’re reading or even walking around the neighbourhood.
10. Describe Items
As well as showing them and naming objects, be sure to add in descriptions of the item to add meaning and value. Try to use all sense when describing things to your child. Emphasize the colors, shapes, taste, smell and textures to help them really learn through their senses.