The holidays are officially over and 2015 is here! The new year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings, especially for those new little babies who have been welcomed into the world.
As a professional in speech and language development, and a mother of two, I am constantly trying to spread the message of why it is critical for parents to take the lead role in their child’s language development from the start. I try and do this by sharing three important truths all parents should know:
• Babies start learning language right from birth
• First words occur around 12mths and there is a HUGE amount of language learning infants need to do before they can talk
• Babies spend most of their time in daily routines with their parents and the majority of their language learning will occur in these interactions.
So with that in mind here are five simple, but powerful things to do with your baby to make sure they get a strong start in their language development!
1) Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes
Before babies can learn words they first have to learn to distinguish the different speech sounds in their language. Language features like stress, prosody and repetition that naturally occur during songs and rhymes makes it easier for babies to hear the different speech sounds and later learn which sounds go together to make up words.
2) Use gestures to support what you say
When babies are first learning to understand words they make a quick guess about what a word might mean. By pointing to or holding up objects while you are talking about them you are making the guessing a lot easier, which helps grow a baby’s vocabulary more quickly.
3) Let them make noise
We have all heard that babies need to be exposed to a lot of words to help them learn language and that it is good to talk to your baby a lot. This is all true, however it is lesser known (and equally important) that babies need to hear themselves talk too. So don’t interrupt your noisy little one, or fill the air space too much with your own talking. Leave lots of time for babies to practice babbling and making all those other funny noises so they can learn the power of their own voice.
4) Imitate their sounds and actions
Imitation is a very easy and very impactful tool for language learning. By imitating a baby’s sounds and actions two important things will occur. First, it teaches the basic back and forth turn-taking critical to successful communication. Second, it encourages babies to make the sounds or actions again!
5) Keep your language simple
The latest research continues to demonstrate that it’s not just the quantity of words a baby hears, but the quality of communication interactions that is most important to language learning. Keeping sentences short and simple provides a higher quality interaction. Try talking about what your baby sees and hears. It will help them understand language more quickly and make it easier for them to use language later.