Starting Conversations With Infants

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During early childhood, the growth and development of children’s brains occur at remarkable speeds.

By their first birthday, children typically acquire all the necessary sounds essential for developing language skills and vocabulary. Although it might seem unfamiliar to converse with a baby, remember that your child absorbs every sound, word, and facial expression. At this stage, the content matters less than the act of talking itself. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started.

How to talk to your baby:

  • Narrate: As you go through your day, tell your baby what you are doing. “It’s time to change your diaper. Let’s unbutton your pajamas and take out the diaper and wipes. This wipe is cold – brrrrr! Okay, let’s button you back up.” 
  • Ask Questions: Even though babies can’t speak yet, engaging in back-and-forth “conversations” with them is incredibly beneficial for their language learning and overall development. “Would you like to read this book about baby animals or the one about the big trucks? Okay, you like the big truck book, they make loud noises – vroom! Good choice, lets read this book together.”
  • Label Everything: Using simple speech can often help babies identify specific words more easily, especially as they approach the age when they start to speak themselves. Label and point to objects such as ball, banana, blanket, dog and bottle.
  • Read Books together: Reading is one of the most effective ways to enhance your baby’s vocabulary, so try to incorporate story time into your routine whenever possible. Nursery rhymes and sturdy board books are excellent options, particularly those with simple, colorful illustrations and easy-to-turn pages.
  • Listen to your baby as they try to master sounds: While conversing with your baby supports their vocabulary development, it’s also crucial to give them opportunities to practice speaking on their own. When your baby begins babbling, take a moment to pause and give her your full attention. Make eye contact and actively listen as she attempts sounds like “mmm” or “ahhh” (without interrupting).

Have fun while conversing with your baby. They depend on their caregivers to talk and engage with them. This is how their language develops, and they begin to learn the world around them. Make talking to your baby a habit and before you know it, they will be talking back!

Resources:

  • PBS: Having Back-and-Forth Conversations
  • Sesame Workshop: Make Everyday Moments Talking Moments

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