Helping your baby's language development


Before birth 


What can parents do to help?  Babies can hear sounds from the sixth month of pregnancy:  • talk to your baby in the womb  • choose a favourite nursery rhyme and read it aloud every day  • play a selection of songs on a daily basis Before the first words  Baby-talk: 

You have probably noticed that parents and other people tend to speak to babies in a different way to adults. This “infant-directed speech” can sound a little musical and exaggerated. Usually, infant-directed speech uses a smaller range of vocabulary, the tone of voice may be higher and softer, it may be slower and more repetitive than normal adult language and contain a lot of questions. It is preferred by babies, and may make language learning and social development easier for them. This comes naturally to parents and caregivers, and is helpful for the baby. What can parents do to help? 

Babies very quickly start learning all the relevant information that will help them understand and produce words. The best thing that you can do to help your baby learn is to talk, talk and talk:  • narrate the day as it evolves and describe all the activities that take place  • read to your baby. It is never too early to start reading  • when you read picture books tell her what she's looking at to help her associate words with objects  • tell your baby elaborate stories  • use television, computers and noisy toys sparingly. While there are some good educational programs which can be beneficial to your baby, TV shows and computers don't interact with or respond to babies. Interaction and responsiveness are the two catalysts that babies need to learn language Starting to talk

What can parents do to help?  To help your child start to combine words to produce sentences, you can help by:  • giving her lots of opportunities to talk. Include her in your conversations with your partner and older children to give her a chance to chat  • responding to her words with more words. If she yells “car!”, then you could reply “Yes, it is a red car like daddy’s one”  • asking questions. Two-sided conversations will help your child to practice her new skills, so pose questions to your toddler that call for more than a yes or no answer  • devoting your full attention. Stay focused when she’s speaking. If you get distracted, she will as well Kindly written for Baby College by Dr. Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez, The Babylab, Oxford Brookes University www.babycollege.co.za

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