Talking is only one of the ways we communicate. A child’s communication and language development starts at birth, as the child gets to know and recognize her parents’ and caregivers’ voices. The first signs of communication and language are typically around 3 months, when a child begins to babble and coo.
You can help encourage a child’s communication and language skills, through activities such as:
Reading is one of the best ways to encourage language development. Start by reading simple board books that babies can hold. Seeing words and their pictures help little ones understand the two are connected. As the child grows, ask him to point out different objects on the page or tell what happens next in favorite books.
Singing is an easy and fun way to encourage language development. Sing to babies, sing as you do chores, and teach preschoolers songs and sing along with them. For toddlers, start introducing movement with songs, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” to draw connections between words and actions, and actively involve the children.
Rhyming and word games engage thinking skills as well as language skills. Sing nursery rhymes or take turns saying rhyming words with the child. Say a few words that rhyme such as bat, cat and sat, then ask the child to say another one. The words don’t actually need to be words; but can be similar sounds such as dat or wat.
Talking with a child can help her grow communication skills every day. For infants, explain what you are doing and talk in a calm, soft voice. As babies begin to coo and babble, respond to their sounds. As toddlers begin to say simple words like dada and bye-bye, repeat the words and encourage them to speak. Repetition is helpful as vocabulary develops, so name people, places and things you regularly see. As the child grows, ask her to tell you a story and encourage questions.
For more information on how to encourage and support a child’s communication and language development, visit helpmegrowmn.org.