From infancy to 3 years old, children learn more rapidly then they will for the rest of their lives. Language will be the single most important skill your baby adopts; it is naturally driven by their communication and survival instincts.
Begin at The Beginning
- It starts in the womb. An unborn child’s heart rate will slow at the sound of its mother’s voice; reading or singing to them before they are born can actually develop their language capabilities.
- Babies don’t learn as quickly when you speak “adult” to them; there’s plenty of time in their preschool years to learn adult words and begin to read; don’t force them to grow up too fast. Your baby will more readily respond to speech that sounds like they made it themselves, with shorter sound patterns and changes in pitch. They will even learn nonsense words when spoken with exaggerated pronunciations and physical cues.
- If you make facial expressions to go with your words (sad, happy, proud, etc.), then your infants can develop very early social understanding; helpful traits for their preschool interactions as well becoming an empathic adult.
Remember those squeals and single syllable “words” are the beginning of speech. If you don’t answer their cries, then they won’t know their communications are working and they will lose trust in the attachment.
Encourage Your Babies to Talk
- Plenty of interaction (talking to and listening) with infants is essential for left and right brain balance; talk to them while feeding, bathing, playing and rocking them to sleep. It also increases the physical and spiritual connections between parent and child.
- Babies will imitate or mimic many different sounds and voices as well as our movements. Repeating words and using them in songs will reinforce and stimulate their communication patterns.
- Use direct eye contact while speaking to them. Point to things and they will follow where you look (after 4-5 months of age); this enhances language development later on.
- Link sounds to meaning with game play; as in “here’s Mommy’s nose, and here is your nose” (pointing as you go through different body parts or objects in the room).
- Wait for them to answer before you start another sentence and encourage them if they don’t. You want to have them understand the concept of taking turns with others and recognizing quiet pauses.
- Reading to your child is one of the greatest motivators to for verbal reactions; initiating “oohs” and “aahs,” and later questions. Sit them near you as you prepare a meal and cite the ingredients and movements you are making; it will stimulate their cognition much more than resting in front of cartoons on the television.
Just as babies instinctively will try to communicate, our instincts tell us to speak to them in funny voices and sing them songs (after all, they are cute and cuddly and so dependent upon our attentions). Enjoy this special time in your child’s life, and watch the amazing process of language evolving.
Michele Allen writes on various health topics. She’s almost done with her CNA training and is very much looking forward to beginning her CNA career.