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.
Books 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 www.kidshealth.org and clicking on the Growth and Development tab. “Choosing Baby Books and Toddler Books” on Scholastic.com has more tips for choosing books just right for your child too.