Thinking about all the ways that babies develop communication skills can be puzzling, and for caregivers, downright overwhelming! Between milestone checklists and the latest research-based newspaper column, it’s hard to know what is best for baby, and whether or not you need to get specialized training or specific toys/gadgets to help. The good news? The best kinds of way to encourage your baby to talk are free! Here are five favorite ways to develop your baby’s language skills:
Do “baby talk”.
“Baby talk” might make you think of nonsense words like “goo-goo-ga-ga”, but it’s actually a specialized way of talking to your baby that many of us do without thinking about it. If you find yourself speaking in a higher pitch, stretching out your vowel sounds, or talking slower to your child: congratulations, you’re speaking parentese, opens a new window. And it’s been linked to increased language skills! So, give yourself permission to imitate the way you hear your storytime librarians talking at home.
Narrate your day.
This is a great way to introduce lots of vocabulary to your child and help them gain an understanding of what’s happening in their world. Start simple at bath time: “First up, let’s wash your hair. Ooh, the water feels nice and warm. It looks like some of tonight’s spaghetti got in your ear! How did that happen?” The first couple times you practice this skill, you’re likely going to feel silly and that’s okay! Keep practicing and think of all the benefits you’re giving your baby.
Songs are engaging and fun, and they slow down how quickly we speak. That means babies will hear the different parts of each word in an easier-to-understand format. And all we need to accomplish this is our own voice, a radio, or the Hoopla app on your phone, opens a new window.
Surround your baby with conversations. Talk with the rest of your family over the dinner table, bring baby along to gatherings with friends, or join a playgroup/parenting group. You can also model a conversation with baby by responding to the sounds they make, allowing them to make another sound, and responding again—just as you would with an adult conversation!
Read language-rich books.
Of course, we have to mention books! (We're librarians after all.) Books feature different words than we typically use in every-day life. There are a lot of board books specifically designed to build vocabulary, opens a new window, and you can always get recommendations based on your child’s favorite things while visiting the library or through our Book Match program, opens a new window. Happy reading!
Thirty board books designed to build your baby or toddler's vocabulary while having fun!