Language is a powerful learning tool. Your baby learns language just by listening to you talk. Hearing your words over and over again helps your baby learn their meaning. Before your baby can even speak, she will know several dozen words. Talking to children helps them learn to:
- Express their felling
It might feel strange to talk out loud to your baby. Especially when all your baby can do is smile back, or just blink and stare. But babies love to hear you talk! So talk as much as you can. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel – even in public! (We promise.)
Tips for Talking with Your Baby
Answer your baby’s goos and gahs
When your baby coos or babbles, answer back. You can copy her sounds. Or say something simple like “That’s right” or “I know.” This helps your baby learn how to listen and speak back and forth with someone in a conversation.
Name facial expressions
This helps your child learn emotions. Does your baby smile or get excited when it’s time for applesauce? Say out loud to her “You like fruit!” Does he cry if he drops his toy? You might gently say “You are sad because you lost your rattle.”
Tell baby what you’re doing
Talk as you’re feeding, dressing or bathing your baby. Talking during normal routines helps your baby learn familiar words. “Time to wash your feet. Is Mama tickling your toes?”
Music makes language come alive. Nursery rhymes make words easier to remember. Feeling shy? Think you can’t sing? It doesn’t matter. Your baby loves your voice. Singing brings you closer together.
Describe what baby is doing.
Think of it as play-by-play commentary. Label their toys, gestures, or actions. “You like tummy time. Good job pushing up with your arms!” Or “You are reaching for the ball. Can you roll the ball with your hand?”
Describe what you see
Point out things when you’re on a walk. “That is a very tall tree.” “Two people are waiting for the bus.” Or at the grocery story. “These apples are round and red.” Any activity will do.
Repeat simple words like “dada” and “mama” often. Say them clearly. Your baby will start to learn words that she hears a lot. She will also learn what they mean. When it’s time for a bedtime story you might say, “Let’s cuddle now and read a book. Book. Dada likes to read books.”
Talking at Every Age
Newborns to 6 months
Babies are born ready to listen and learn. They already recognize parents’ voices and other familiar sounds from hearing them in the womb. Between 4-6 months, your baby begins to babble words at you, especially when she is excited or happy. By the end of 6 months, your baby:
- Communicates with you through sounds, crying, coos, and gestures.
- Takes turns in conversation through babbles and sounds.
Babies 6 – 12 months
At this age, your baby:
- Babbles at you to get your attention.
- Imitates different sounds she hears. Around 7 months, your baby understands what common words mean like “cup,” “blanket,” or “food.”
- By his first birthday, he will learn one or two words like “mamma” or “dada.”
- She begins to use the same word for many different things. “Doggie” may mean dog, cat, and cow.
- He understands simple instructions like “come here” or “get the ball.”
Young Toddlers 12 – 24 months
At this age, your child:
- May mispronounce words, or may have his own way of saying things that family members will be able to understand, like saying “wawa” when he means “water.”
- Mixes sounds and different words when he talks to you.
- Repeats many words back to you, especially the last word that you said to her.
- Puts two words together and uses some one or two-word questions: “Where doggie?”
- Follows simple commands and requests.
- Points to objects in books when you read aloud
Older Toddlers 24 -36 months
At this age, your child:
- Begins to recognize different songs and books, and may begin to sing or read along themselves.
- Can tell you what is going to happen next when you are reading one of her favorite books.
- Speaks in a way that your family understands.
- Names objects when asking for something.