From the moment babies are born, they learn language skills. Actually, some scientists and researchers speculate that they sense linguistics while in utero because although your baby cannot distinctly hear the words your speaking, they can detect your tone through your vocal inflections. Language is communicated in many ways. In the US, we use letters that create words, while other countries use symbols, like in Japan or Mid-eastern nations.
Most pediatricians agree that infants don’t start saying their first words until about a year old. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what you’re saying to them. They know much more than they let on.
It’s similar to studying a second language. At first, you learn many vocabulary words; then you learn how to piece them together to create sentences. You listen to native speakers as well to help you pronounce the words accurately. During these listening exercises, you will comprehend what the speaker is saying. However, if you were talking face to face to that person, you wouldn’t be able to express yourself conversationally because it’s more challenging to put sentence structure together when you’re learning a new set of language skills. As you become fluent in the language, and practice speaking it, you are better equipped to communicate to others on a higher level and can express your thoughts to them. The same is true for infants and toddlers.
So, what can you do to help your baby speak those precious first words? Below is a list in no particular order:
- Read – Reading aloud to your child teaches them proper sentence structure, as well as how to read a book correctly. For example, you show the pictures right side up to your little one, not upside down, right? When you add vocal inflection and other storytelling elements, they hear how to express feelings by the tone of your voice. Reading to your child also broadens their vocabulary. It’s also important that you read the entire story to your baby, you can summarize parts of the story, but don’t hurry through the book. This sets an excellent example for them and shows them that reading is essential to you and that you enjoy it.
- Talk – Talking to your baby is important. Don’t use baby talk either because this does not provide the foundation that they need for building their vocabulary. According to Parents.com (https://www.parents.com/baby/development/talking/signs-of-talking/), make sure that you and other adults use real words when you talk to your infant to avoid talking down to them. When they want to know what you’re doing, tell them and speak to them almost as if they can already understand you. Don’t use their words for objects, use the proper names of the items. Remember, although they are only infants and toddlers, they understand more than you think.
- Play – Playing is a two-way street, and both people need to communicate during playtime. When you play with your toddler, pay attention to their interests. As you follow their lead, you respond accordingly and play in return. Through all of this meaningful interaction between the two of you, you exemplify the basics of listening to each other and communicating wants and needs. The same is true if you schedule a play date with another child. Your little one will be exposed to the same experiences, except you may have to do some refereeing and interpreting.
There are many other things you can do to facilitate language in your baby. For more information and a detailed list of linguistic milestones for your infant, read this article from WebMD.com (https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby-talk-your-babys-first-words#1).