Five Ways to Help Little Ones Learn to Talk

In the early months, your baby moves from crying as her main means of communication to vocalizing, smiling at you, and maybe even mimicking your facial expressions. It’s an exciting time!

Here are five ideas you can use to keep your baby moving along that exciting path to acquiring language.

1. Talk, babble, sing, and coo. From baby’s earliest days, interact with him or her. Talk about what you are doing as you go through your day. “Baby talk” is fine, but mix in real words too. You also can imitate sounds your baby makes, and wait for him to respond.

2. The more words and conversation they hear, the better. And these words need to be actually spoken to the child and to others around him; words heard from a screen don’t count—but the words you use as you talk to your child about what is happening on the screen do.

3. Speak slowly, clearly, and in complete sentences. Ask questions. Connect gestures with language. If your toddler points to the refrigerator, for example, ask, “Do you want a snack?” and wait for a response. “What do you want to eat? Yogurt? OK, let’s get some yogurt.”

4. Make music a part of your life. Learn and sing classic childhood songs as well as newer favorites. As children hear and learn the words, they learn to understand and repeat them. Songs with motions (like “The Wheels on the Bus”) make learning a whole-body experience.

5. Introduce books early. Young babies are drawn to simple, high-contrast pictures (like those in Jimmy Fallon’s Dada). And your baby will enjoy hearing your familiar voice reading books with rhyming or rhythmic text. For older babies and toddlers, choose books with board pages and right pictures. Activities like touch ‘n feel elements, lift-the-flaps, pop-ups, and sound chips are a plus.

SayPrayThumbnailBooks don’t have to be “educational” to pack lots of learning for little ones. Whatever the subject, name and point to objects and people in the illustrations. Include a good Bible storybook in your child’s library, and use it to introduce your child to Bible words and people. My new book, Say and Pray Bible, was specially written and designed to encourage little ones to point and name.

You can find lots more information about how children acquire language and tips for helping them at and clicking on the Growth and Development tab. “Choosing Baby Books and Toddler Books” on has more tips for choosing books just right for your child too.

– Diane

New Giveaway! Say & Pray Bible

SayPrayThumbnailTo celebrate the release of Say & Pray Bible: First Words, Stories, and Prayers, I’m hosting a giveaway on my Facebook author page, Diane Stortz Books.

Everyone entered will be included in a drawing for two free copies. Here’s how to enter:

Throughout July, just spot the book at your favorite Christian bookstore, other brick-and-mortar retailer, one of the big-box stores, or anywhere else. Updated July 14: If you’ve purchased the book through an online retailer, that counts! Take a photo and post it on your Facebook profile. In the status update, tell us where you found the book and tag Diane Stortz Books. (Be sure you’ve “liked” the page first.)

Here are two of my grandsons at the Savannah, GA, Barnes and Noble.

SolAsherSAPIf you’re camera shy or don’t have kids to photograph, a photo of the book where you found it is OK!

Giveaway ends July 31 at midnight EST. Thanks for helping me get the word out about Say & Pray Bible!

– Diane

Say & Pray Bible: First Words, Stories, and Prayers

Reed4Today I’m CELEBRATING the release of my new book, Say & Pray Bible: First Words, Stories, and Prayers!

It is JUST RIGHT, truly age appropriate, for introducing little ones to God’s Word!

There are 20 stories, 10 Old Testament and 10 New Testament. The stories are SHORT … just one sentence (or two very short sentences). Here’s one.

Baby in a Basket

Little baby Moses slept in a basket while his sister watched.

Yup, that’s it!

But there’s also a Scripture reference (Exodus 2) plus a short Bible verse and a short little prayer.

Say and Pray

He cares for you. –1 Peter 5:7

Thank You, God, for sisters and brothers! Amen.

Did I mention the stories are SHORT?!

Babies and toddlers LOVE turning pages. So that much text is about all they will absorb until they are older.

Some days you might just read the stories. Another day, just the verses. Yet another reading, just the prayers.

And some days, you might just talk about the pictures—bright, simple, whimsical illustrations by Sarah Ward. Objects in the artwork are LABELED (I am SO HAPPY about this!).

Because toddlers love to POINT and NAME pictures of objects and people they are learning to recognize and say!

Reed3It’s all wrapped up in a sturdy board book with rounded corners and a padded hard cover–practically indestructible!

The little boy in the photos is my #3 grandson. He loves his books and naming and pointing to objects in the pictures, and he was the inspiration for this book!

SayPrayThumbnailI’m putting copies in the mail today for grandsons #2 and #4.

(Grandson #1 turns 8 this week, and he’s been busy reading my Words to Dream On and Devotions for New Readers by my friend Crystal Bowman and Christy Lee Taylor.)

And I’m praying for SOOOO many little ones to learn of God and hear his word (in many languages, I hope!) with this book for years and years to come!

Want to know more? Check out the sampler and find links to retailers here.

– Diane

How Your Little One Learns to Talk

DadaJimmy Fallon has a picture book out!

In Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, determined animal dads try—but fail—to get their adorable offspring to say “Dada.”

It’s a quirky, funny take on the fascinating human task of learning to talk.

For quite a while, I’ve wondered how it is that babies can seem to understand so much, and even think, long before they can speak. And it turns out that no one really can explain this yet, although researchers have documented word-and-picture association in children as young as six months.

Learning to talk involves both the mental task of acquiring language and the physical task of learning to speak. This post is an overview of the stages of language learning.

Babies are born with the capacity to hear and make all the sounds in every language (English has about 44), although by the end of their first year they are losing the ability to distinguish sounds not in the language spoken around and to them.

Around six weeks of age, babies begin to make vowel sounds, especially aah, ee, and ooh. They eventually progress to consonant-vowel pairs, such as boo, da, and even mama and dada—but these “words” have no meaning to babies yet. They still have to determine “word boundaries” in the sound combinations they hear around them.

Most children begin to say single words with meaning, always nouns, at 12-18 months. This is the stage when children can point to—and eventually name—photos or illustrations of objects in their books.

One of my grandsons enjoyed his books immensely when he entered the pointing-and-naming stage.

Pointing2SayPrayThumbnailIn fact, it was interacting with him that gave me the idea for my newest book, Say & Pray Bible. (You can learn more, see a sample here, and find links to preorder here.)

Around 24 months, children begin to say two-word, noun plus verb sentences, such as “Cat run.” In time, sentences become longer and include adjectives and adverbs, but no function words: “Big cat run fast.” Last to develop is the use of function words (such as the and an) and more complex sound combinations and sentence forms.

Human beings seem to be hardwired to acquire language and learn to speak—evidence that, as the Bible says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). But there’s a lot we can do to help little ones learn and have normal language development. I’ll be posting about those soon!

– Diane

Lizzie’s Prayer–This Is Why I Write

I shared this story recently over on the Christian Children’s Author’s blog. I don’t want anyone to miss it, though, so I’m posting it again here.

SarahSometimes an author gets to hear how a book she wrote impacted a child’s life. This is one of those stories!

DunnFamily2Tim and Amy Dunn serve the church I’m part of, and Tim is a varsity football coach in our community too. Tim and Amy tried for 8 years to have a baby, and then God blessed them with their amazing Lizzie, now 6 and finishing up kindergarten.

If you had asked them, Tim and Amy would have said that if God wanted them to have another baby, he would have to open up that door for it to happen.

Last fall, Tim helped me provide the marketing department at Tommy Nelson with some video about my new book Words to Dream On, and he and Amy enthusiastically agreed to be influencers for the book when it came out. When their copy arrived, they began reading it to Lizzie, one story a night.

Not long after that, Tim let me know that Lizzie was praying for God to give their family a baby like he did for Abraham and Sarah.

And not too long after that, a family friend contacted Tim and Amy about a potential opportunity to adopt. And Lizzie changed her prayer to “Please let us have a baby like Sarah did, or let us have THIS baby.”

Tim and Amy were thrilled by the possibility of adopting a baby. They prayed and then told their friend they would LOVE to be considered. And they were! They met with the young mother, and she chose them as the couple she wants to adopt her baby.

So in a month or so, Lizzie will have a baby sister.

And I have a story to cherish and share about the impact of God’s Word in the life of TWO children … Lizzie and the baby she prayed for.

You can be sure I’ll be giving Lizzie’s baby sister a copy of this new book when it release in July! It’s written and designed especially for babies, toddlers, and young preschoolers.

SayPrayThumbnailYou can learn more here.

– Diane

The Book I Bought for June: The Berenstain Bears’ Country Cookbook

A17JZFBpJxLSummer’s the perfect time to try cooking with your kids, and this new cookbook from The Berenstain Bears (Zonderkidz) could be your perfect companion.

Subtitled Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult, the Bears’ Country Cookbook is intended for parents and kids to use together.

Cooking with kids offers so many benefits! Learning life skills, practicing reading and math, adding vocabulary, and maybe the most important—having time together.

Plus some good eating too!

Kids will like paging through this book to choose a recipe. The book includes 40 recipes, each one illustrated with a full-page photo of the finished dish.


Opposite each photo, ingredients and easy-to-follow directions are clearly listed on colorful, well-designed pages.

Categories include Breakfast, Lunch, Main Dishes, and Desserts & Snacks. The divider pages include short introductions about the Bear family.

You’ll find recipes for favorite childhood foods like mini pizzas and mac and cheese as well as more modern dishes like lettuce wraps and white chicken chili. At the back are a mealtime grace, Sweet Facts About Honey, and two pages of Kitchen Measurements.

The last page features this verse: “So whether you eat of drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), a good reminder to enjoy our ordinary family times cooking and eating together as one of God’s good gifts.


– Diane

Dads, You Matter!

Did you know Father’s Day spending in the US typically runs 40 percent less than Mother’s Day spending?

That could suggest that dads are less important to kids than moms. But that just isn’t true.

Young, old, or in between—dads, you matter!

Last month I flew to Seattle to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday! With family and friends, we celebrated and paid tribute to the quiet but strong man we call Dad or Grandpa or Uncle Jim or Brother.

From the backyard barbeque on Friday night to the stretch limo ride to Ray’s Boathouse on Puget Sound on Saturday, we all had a fabulous time!

FridayCakeDadEarlier, in the airport and on our flight, I noticed younger dads equipped with diaper bags, pushing strollers, keeping little ones calm and happy.

One sweet dad across the aisle from me patiently pulled toys and books out of his toddler’s backpack and later, when it was nap time, wrapped his son in a blanket, held him close, and rocked him a bit until he fell asleep.

It’s wonderful to see dads connected with their kids like that. But not surprising anymore—I see my own two sons-in-law do this superbly too.

Children with an involved, caring father are likely to be more confident, emotionally secure, and have better social connections as they grow older. They do better in school, an effect that extends even into the teen and young-adult years.

And if dad isn’t there? Strong relationships with other adult male relatives and friends greatly help to fill his important role. God’s heart for the fatherless is clear early on in the Bible, when his law for the Israelites included these words: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex. 22:22). And the psalmist wrote, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psa. 68:5)

So as Father’s Day nears, here’s to dads! You matter. A lot!


A book is often the perfect gift! If you’d like to find a book for dad and his kids to share on Father’s Day, here are some good choices for all ages.

ThanksForDaddy        DaddyLovesYou       DadSonBible       DadDaughterBible DaddyDay      FatherDaughterDevo
– Diane

Help CAN Authors Serve in Orlando This Summer

occgreenbus462x211What do you do on a Saturday morning with several hundred at-risk kids from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Orlando, Florida?

Why, you have church, of course!

After you pick them up in 11 big buses and give them all a free breakfast.

That’s what founder Peter O’Driscoll and his team of volunteers do each week, and later this month I’ll be joining them along with other authors from Christian Authors Network (CAN). For two hours we’ll be talking, laughing, playing, and praying with the kids of Orlando Children’s Church.

occ_saturday-75-of-138-150x150This special literacy/mission event is being hosted by CAN and the Christian Booksellers Association before the start of the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando June 28-July1. CBA and ICRS traditionally partner with a local ministry in the city hosting the show each year. A special offering for the ministry will be taken at the Sunday night worship service at the show, and retailers and exhibitors may donate throughout the show as well.

You can learn more directly from O’Driscoll in this compelling video about the work of Orlando Children’s Church. And you can help me and other CAN authors as we reach out with Jesus’ love.

We’ll be filling a bag for each child–with a Christian book, bookmarks, pencils, and other literacy-related items–and donations are needed. You can contact CAN’s public relations director, Carol McAdams Moore, for information and addresses for mailing items or making a financial contribution.

And you can pray!

  • Pray for the children who will attend the event. Pray that they will be healthy and available to attend.
  • Pray for the authors who will be talking with the children. Pray that God will give us words that will speak to the hearts of the children.

Thanks in advance for partnering with me and CAN authors as we reach out to the kids of Orlando Children’s Church!


– Diane

The Book I Bought for May: My Bible Animals Storybook

BibleAnimalsProlific author Dandi Daley Mackall loves animals . . . and God . . . and the Bible . . . and kids.

Tie those loves together and you can give kids . . . the 2015 ECPA Christian Book Award for children’s books! My Bible Animals Storybook is published by Tyndale Kids. (The ECPA is the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.)

Books entered by their publishers in the Christian Book Award competition are first judged by a panel of two retailers, two authors, and two experts related to the specific category. Books must include explicit Christian content, an overtly Christian message, and/or a distinctively Christian world view. Each category also has its own judging criteria.

The five top-scoring books in each category are announced as finalists, and the top scoring book receives the award for that category.

The children’s category includes fiction and nonfiction and all types of books–from board books to Bible storybooks to devotionals and everything in between–for preschool and elementary ages. It’s broad … and that makes it very hard to call one book the best.

But My Bible Animals Storybook is a very deserving book!

Every story features a different animal … and the tie-ins aren’t forced. Some choices would be obvious, of course, like the dove on Noah’s ark, Daniel’s den of lions, or the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem. But Dandi included examples you might not think of right away, like Jacob’s spotted and speckled goats, the ants in Solomon’s proverbs, and the moths in Jesus’ teaching about money. So readers get to enjoy some stories not always included in Bible storybooks.

Dandi writes with a wonderful voice that will engage children right away–taking the stories seriously but still having fun. Each story covers two pages, followed by a page of Amazing Facts about the animal featured in the story and an application page called What It Means to Me—with a short devotion, a related Bible verse, and a prayer. These brief lessons focus either on God’s character as revealed by the story or on how we should respond to the teaching the story presents.

Illustrations by Heather Heyworth add fun and interest from beginning to end. The contemporary children on the application pages are ethnically diverse, and the Bible characters share a variety of darker skin tones.

I would have liked some kind of parent helps or parent-child activities at the back of the book instead of the four big ads for some of Dandi’s other books.

But otherwise, My Bible Animals Storybook is a great choice as an introduction to the Bible or as an add-on choice for kids who already know Bible stories well.

Each month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors and to recommend to my readers. You can find this year’s picks for JanuaryFebruary, March and April at those links and find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

– Diane

Let’s Ease the Pain of Mother’s Day

RoseThis coming Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day … as all the ads and flyers and greeting card aisles have been reminding us, every day now for weeks. But the joy and gladness of the advertising and retail worlds rarely reflect reality.

Mother’s Day can bring a lot of joy . . .

To new moms, first-time moms, moms whose children are succeeding and accomplishing goals, moms with healthy babies, women whose own moms are loving, understanding, and supportive.

But Mother’s Day can bring a lot of pain . . .

To women who can’t conceive, women who’ve miscarried, women with sick babies, women who’ve lost children, women who’ve had abortions, women whose children are prodigals, women whose own moms were not shining examples of motherhood, women in grief.

Mother’s Day is a happy day for me. But along my road as mother and as daughter, I’ve experienced losses of various kinds and had to deal with grief.

One of the worst kinds of grief is disenfranchised grief, when people grieve “without the benefit of social support or others’ recognition of their struggle.” **

The Bible tells us to honor our parents. The honor is due them for their position even if, for some reason, not their behavior.

But the Bible doesn’t mandate a special day for churches to make a big deal about the happy moms and new babies in their midst. And definitely not at the expense of those who already woke up on Mother’s Day with heavy hearts.

Churches have often recognized moms or dedicate babies on Mother’s Day. I’m not sure why. Yes, we are to honor one another (Romans 13:7), and moms deserve honor and encouragement, and those babies can make for an entertaining morning.

But if the observance doesn’t also acknowledge the real hurt of women who grieve and women who long to be moms but are not … then those who struggle find their grief disenfranchised by those who should be the first to love.

So this is a plea for all of us to be aware.

If your church celebrates Mother’s Day in any way that disenfranchises grief this year … maybe you can help turn things around for next year.

And maybe you know a woman for whom coming to church on Mother’s Day will be a struggle. Maybe you can speak a simple word of acknowledgement, or write a note, or give a hug.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

POM** The quote is from my co-author, counselor Cheryl Savageau, in the chapter on grief in Parents of Missionaries (IVP).

This updated post was first published at in 2013.

– Diane


You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!