The journey of a child’s language development begins as early as birth; and the first 12 months are an important stage of this development. Parents, grandparents, siblings, caregivers, aunt, uncles…everyone involved in your baby’s world is introducing communication each day and can be a part of the journey. There are so many ways to help with your child’s speech development. While sometimes it may feel one-sided, like you’re talking to yourself, you’re not. For some of us, thinking out loud doesn’t come as naturally. Here are a few simple tricks and activities to keep a steady stream of language flowing in your everyday baby interactions:

  1. Talk to baby frequently, about everything.
    Try narrating your day together: Now let’s count the snaps on your jammies, “1, 2, 3, 4…4 snaps!” Or point to the items and tools of the day, “How about some banana?” (Pointing at the fruit)
  2. Respond to them talking to you.
    Crying, eye contact, coos, gurgles, grunts, babble, smiles, and waving arms and feet are all your baby’s way of talking and communicating for more cuddles, no more cuddles, hungry, not hungry, tired, not tired enough, and sometimes just to grab your attention. Your response let’s your baby know you’re listening and encourages her to communicate more in return.
  3. Introduce new words.
    Don’t be afraid to use new words and use them frequently. Repetition will allow baby to take in and work to understand what you are saying.
  4. Read books!
    Research shows reading to a child every helps them in language development along with other developmental areas. Baby’s first board books, your childhood favorites, touch and feel, wordless (you make up the words) – read whatever makes it fun for you and for baby. Follow baby’s lead and increase or decrease depending on her interest (cries, coos, kicks…(see “Crying” above)
  5. Sing-a-long
    Songs, melodies, choruses and rhymes are fun ways to help your baby listen for and recognized words.
  6. Play!
    Peek-a-boo or playing hide-and-seek with objects is a way to teach names of objects. Children learn through play at every stage of their development.

Always keep in mind that all babies develop at different rates. Just because baby might not be doing what your friend’s baby is doing at six month isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. Talk to your doctor or YWCA Consultant to learn about your babies development and to answer your questions or concerns. “Raising Children” is a another resource for age groups and corresponding developmental milestones.