Talking to your baby matters
Although your baby is not using words, it doesn’t mean they’re not learning language.In the first five to six years of your child’s life, your child’s brain goes through the most development it ever will. In particular, your baby’s brain development for language learning will occur in the first two years. So, stimulating your baby’s brain by talking to them is just as important as providing them food to help them grow!
- Talking to your baby will help strengthen your bond and connection and build the foundations for social interaction.
- Talking to your baby will give your baby the best chance to learn to speak.
Here are some essential things you can do to encourage your baby’s language development and what type of vocalisations to expect from 0-12 months.
When your baby is pre-verbal: How to talk to your baby
The most important thing you can do from infancy is to TALK TO YOUR BABY! This may seem so simple but highly underestimated. Your baby needs twelve to eighteen months of hearing others use language before they begin talking. You cannot expect your baby to be an effective communicator if they haven’t heard language.
In my experience, not all parents find it easy and natural to talk to their baby. Sometimes it takes time getting used to it, especially when you might feel silly as if you’re on a kids TV program!
Here are some easy things you can do with your baby:
- Allocate 5 minutes at a time, about three times a day (or as much as you can handle as busy, exhausted mamma!).
- Be face to face with your baby – get nice and close so they can see your eyes and mouth move as you interact.
- Be a commentator and talk about what’s happening at the moment using words and simple sentences (e.g. “reach reach, bang bang, up we go, there goes your arm, what a good sleep you had, shake the rattle, that’s you in the mirror”).
- Copy your baby’s sounds, pause for a couple of seconds, and see if they make sounds back (this is like your baby having a “conversation” with you!).
- Make lots of play sounds to go with what is happening (e.g., “upsadaisy!” “wheeee!” “uh-oh”).
- Don’t be afraid to talk like you would to another adult. Your baby’s brain is like a sponge and absorbs anything they hear and see. So describe what’s happening, tell them a story, share your thoughts with them. They are the best listener you will ever have ☺︎ ♡
When my baby begins vocalising sounds, what should I do?
Between zero to nine months, your baby will likely make sounds during interaction and play.Their sounds are made up of vowels (e.g. ooo, ahhh), and as early as six months, they start combining sounds (e.g. oh-oh, oo-ahh, ba, um).However, these sounds are not for a specific purpose and appear more random and exploratory (as if they’re exploring how their mouth moves & sounds). When you copy their coos and sounds, they may take turns with you. At this stage, you can focus on copying your baby’s sounds, as well as talking to your baby in a general sense, as described above.
Between nine and twelve months, your baby will begin making more intentional vocalisations. They might also start babbling two syllables together (e.g. ba-ba, up-ba, ma-ma, da-da).Intentional vocalisations are when your baby begins using sounds as if they were “words” to get their wants or needs met. For example, they may reach up with their hands, make eye contact and vocalise, indicating they want to be picked up. Or, they may reach or point towards an object and make eye contact with you, telling you they want the toy.Once your baby gets to this stage, you can start focusing on labelling vocalisations with words they would “say” if they could talk. So in the examples described above, you might say “up up” or “ball, you want the ball”, respectively.