Long before your little one utters their first syllables, their brain is working overtime to develop language skills. From the day they are born (or pretty close to it), a baby's brain begins to process sounds and create a foundation for language that will influence their learning throughout life. Although every child is unique in their development, there are several effective ways to increase your baby's language skills that provide them with more meaningful ways to communicate and interact with their world.
Romper recently spoke with Kara Dukakis, director of the public awareness and action campaign Too Small To Fail, which promotes the importance of early brain and language development. According to Dukakis, "The most dramatic period of brain development takes place between age 0 to 5 years old." It's during this time that neural connections are being made at a rapid pace to create a strong foundation for learning. Too Small To Fail has created an initiative called Talking Is Teaching to provide caregivers with resources for creating more words in a child's vocabulary. Using the concepts from Talking Is Teaching, as well as other proven methods, you can boost your baby's language skills with these 11 activities.
1Talk To Them
Dukakis suggests parents take advantage of every opportunity throughout the day to talk to your baby. "Research has shown that the more words children hear, the more words they speak," Dukakis says. Additionally, having more words helps children to communicate in more meaningful ways with the people in their life.
2Read To Them
This daily parent-child ritual is beneficial from day one of a child's life. According to the Talking Is Teaching campaign, even newborn babies are learning when their parents read with them. You can enjoy all those delicious snuggles while your baby takes in your words and sounds, and builds brain muscles.
3Sing To Them
You don't have to be a Grammy winning artist to sing to your baby; she's just happy to hear your voice. And the skills she's developing from listening to your songs will stick with her for life, since there is a connection between music and learning.
A study conducted at the Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that infant's brain is able to recognize differences in beats, supporting the theory that this is an innate skill rather than a learned one. Whether it's learned or not, the rhythm of your songs registers in the brain of your little one from the start. Researchers also believe that singing to your infant can decrease the likelihood of language problems later in life, according to Psychology Today.
4Visit Stimulating Places
When getting out of the house with kids, think of language-rich outings like the zoo, aquarium, and children's museums, as Parents magazine suggested. These trips offer plenty of opportunities to learn names of animals and be introduced to new words that increase learning.
5Make Errands Count
Dukakis says there are opportunities to boost vocabulary at grocery stores, playgrounds, and even the laundromat. With that in mind, Talking Is Teaching provides actionable resources and tips for parents to increase their bonding moments talking, reading, and singing with their children as well as creates high-quality tools for verbal interaction to be placed in regularly visited spots within the community. These prompts offer caregivers the chance to share teachable moments with their child in what may otherwise be nonverbal moments.
When talking, reading, and singing with your baby, "body contact adds value," Dukakis says. Having the physical connection along with the language makes the interaction more meaningful.
7Connect Words And Objects
To build your child's language library, make sure to also point to and object when naming an it. For example, the Dr. Sears website suggests pointing to a picture of a cat and saying, "cat" to help your baby make the association. You can do this while reading or while wander the neighborhood, noticing objects in nature that you come across on your stroll.
8Maintain Eye Contact
When you're having a conversation with your little one, little efforts can go a long way. Dukakis emphasizes the importance of making eye contact, since this adds quality to the interaction and helps strengthen the bond between you and your baby.
It doesn't have to be you who does all the talking. Bring your baby into the conversation by encouraging them to speak. Depending on their age, you can encourage your child to speak with either sounds, words, or phrases to boost their language skills, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
As your baby grows and develops, so will her language abilities. From the time your baby starts to make small vocalizations, such as coos and giggles, be sure to respond to your child's speech, as the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina suggested. These will be the first back and forth conversations you share with your baby.
Pointing to and naming objects is necessary, but rich descriptions add loads of meaning and value. As Talking Is Teaching suggested, you should use all the senses when describing something to your child. Use words that emphasize color, shape, texture, taste, and smell when talking about something your baby is holding or looking at to help the baby explore with their senses.