How to Teach Your Baby to Talk
Babies absorb so much information in the first few years of their lives. It is amazing what a huge impact everything you do has on an infant and their development. With infants, it can sometimes be hard to tell what they are really taking in because they cannot yet communicate with words. Teaching a baby to speak is fundamentally important for their development. What they are able to absorb and learn in the very first few years of life will lay the foundation for all of their learning for the rest of their lives. No pressure, right? Relax! Babies are like little sponges. It is easier than it sounds.
Talk to Your Baby
Talk to your baby all the time, and I mean all the time. As you are changing them, tell them exactly what you are doing, step by step, and always speak in a soft, calming voice. Go through each step of everything you do with them. It may seem kind of strange and silly to say, "Now, I am taking off your diaper. I see that you are wet." or, "Look at this nice big bowl of applesauce! Doesn't it look yummy?" But babies respond to it, even if it may be hard to see it at first.
Be sure to talk to them all throughout your day. When you go to the grocery store, point things out to them, tell them what you are buying, and keeping them entertained that way is a lot better than letting them play with your keys or your cell phone. You may get some funny looks from the other shoppers at the store, but who really cares? Talk to them in the car on the way home, or even sing to them. Babies love music!
Watch your baby's responses. When you talk to them, pause, as you would in a normal conversation, and give them time to respond. You know...just like you would if you were talking to an adult. Sometimes they may smile, babble, or giggle, or sometimes they may just make a face or sit there and watch you. This shows them that they can talk back, make noise or a face, or whatever. Either way, you are showing them the patterns of communication that they will use later on in life. It is also important for them to learn that it is just as important for them to talk as it is for you to talk. They will begin to feel that it is important for them to respond. Pretty soon, instead of funny looks from your baby, they may respond with a coo or babble of their own.
Read to your baby at least once every day. Show them the pictures in the book and point out things in the pictures that go along with the story. Even if you are just reading a baby book of words, point out the picture of the ball, or the cat. They identify with things that they can see. They make the connection between the words that are spoken and the pictures that they can see. Even taking objects that they are familiar with and speaking the name of the object will enhance their vocabulary, and will help them make important connections between words and the world around them.
Reading to your baby doesn't have to be a long process. Babies don't have very long attention spans. It should only be about a five-minute activity. Though, it is often difficult to get them to sit still that long. Just pick a book to read to them, and also pick one for them to hold onto, and most likely chew on. Hold the book so both you and baby can see it. Point to the pictures as you name them off, or read the story. Books that also make noise or have fun textures for your baby to play with are also a great idea. It gives the book an added level of interest for when they are just playing with the book, making it a toy as well.
Books for a baby should be sturdy board books, vinyl books (bathtub books), or fabric books. Books with paper pages are not good for babies. They will tear them up pretty quickly.
One more thing that I have used in raising my daughter, as well as my time working in childcare, is sign language. Some may see this as a negative step towards teaching a baby to speak, but it only enhances their knowledge and their connection to the world around them. It improves a baby's ability to communicate. Teaching them to sign words like please, thank you, and more gives them an outlet for communicating when speaking the words is still beyond their grasp. It eliminates some of the frustration babies experience from not being able to communicate their needs.
Being able to communicate their needs is important for learning communication skills, as well as fostering a bond between the child and the caregiver. If the infant feels their needs are being met, trust is formed between the child and the caregiver, and the infant learns that through communication, they can get what she needs or wants. It is basically a cause-and-effect learning situation.
Teach Your Baby to Sign
- Baby Sign Language: Resources to Teach Sign Language for Babies
Baby Sign Language helps you communicate with your pre-verbal infant. Start teaching your child with this collection of free resources, including a baby sign language dictionary, flash cards, and printable wall chart.
If you have any concerns regarding your child's development or ability to speak, please talk to your child's pediatrician. They know you and your child, and they can help figure out if you just have a child that isn't wanting to talk, or if there is a problem that needs to be addressed. They can run tests and talk with you about your concerns.
I knew someone whose son wasn't talking by the time he was two. She brought him to the doctor, and it turned out his ears were clogged, so that it was hard for him to hear, and therefore, difficult for him to learn to speak. Don't be afraid to talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have regarding your child's development. It is very important that you share those things with your pediatrician.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2008 Anna Marie Bowman