Learning to Speak

How To Encourage Baby's Speech Development

You can help develop your baby's language skills as soon as they are born, even though it will be a long time before they actually start using words! Talk to your baby throughout your day, making eye contact when you speak to them. This teaches them about communication, and in turn they will respond by making noises back to you. Say phrases such as 'do you want some milk?' just before feeding time, or if they are looking at their toy bunny, ask 'do you want your bunny?'. Listen to them, and then respond. They'll love having a conversation with you! You can also copy the sounds your baby makes to you back to them, which teaches them how to imitate sounds.

As your baby gets older, point out objects to them; 'look, there's a dog!'. Then add more detail 'look, the dog is wagging his tail'. Explain everything you do to your baby; 'Mummy's doing the washing up now to get the plates clean', 'We're going to run you a bath now so you can splash in the water' etc.

Singing nursery rhymes is a great way to help develop your baby's language skills. Songs with accompanying actions are especially effective, such as 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands', 'The wheels on the bus', and 'Wind the bobbin up'.

Things You Can Cut Down to Encourage Development

Make sure you don't have the TV on too much around your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two shouldn't watch any TV at all. There is a link between too much TV and delayed speech development. This is because babies and toddlers are less likely to try and speak when the TV or radio is on, as instead of being encouraged to speak for themselves they are listening to the TV. It's a bit like having a friend who talks constantly; your baby can't get a word in edgeways! It's also harder to speak when you have to try and shout over the TV to get yourself heard!

Dummies can also restrict speech development, so if your baby uses a dummy, keep it just for naptime and bedtime.

Getting Your Baby Reading and Responding

Reading books to your baby is a fantastic way of helping develop their language skills. Babies usually love books so capitalise on this early interest in books by reading to them as often as you can. This will help their development skills throughout their childhood and adolescence. You don't always need to read out the story, (most babies won't sit still for this amount of time anyway), but talk about what's happening in the pictures and point out objects. If you can, relate what's happening to things in your baby's life, for example 'look, there's the seaside. We went to the seaside with granny and you played in the sand'.

When your baby points to something they want, say 'oh, you want your ball', and then give it to them. Also give your baby choices to help teach them names for things, for example, when it's snack time, say 'do you want a banana or an apple today?'. Give your baby lots of praise if they say a word. It doesn't matter if they don't pronounce it correctly, they won't pronounce words properly for quite some time. If they say 'ba' for bird, say 'well done, yes it is a bird'.

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