How to Boost Your Baby's Language Development
The acquisition of language is both a natural and learning process for children. This happens as they interact with people and things in their environment. Here are some things that you can do to jump start your baby's language development.
The acquisition of language is a natural learning process for children. This happens as they interact with people and things in their environment. The process is gradual and comes at different paces for every child. The first five years of life is when developmental foundations are built. It is, therefore, the most critical window for language development. The way you interact with your child during this period will determine how he will develop his language skills.
Language is divided into two major aspects – receptive and expressive. Receptive language is the ability to listen and understand language while expressive language is being able to speak and convey messages. Your child should develop both these aspects well in order to be a good communicator.
The Stages of Language Development
Taken from Caroline Bowen’s Ages and Stages: Developmental milestones for receptive and expressive language development, the stages of language development are divided into the following:
Babies are aware of sounds in their environment, though they are still unfamiliar with most of the sounds that they hear. To express their feelings, they will make some sounds, including a lot of crying.
Babies start to respond to familiar voices and closely listen to anything that they are not familiar with. To express delight at seeing their parents or anyone familiar, they smile or make a ‘goo-goo’ sound. It is possible to differentiate babies’ cries at this age.
They start to respond to the word “no” and seem to be fascinated at other sounds such as music, the ‘whirr’ of electric appliances, and animal sounds. At this time, babies can now open their throat and make gurgling sounds. They are most likely able to sound out consonants such as m, b, and p.
At this age, babies are already familiar with their names and actually look for the one who has called them. They start to respond to questions and requests at this stage too. The names of common household objects are already familiar to them and can point at them when asked. This is the time when babies are most likely to say their first word, as they are now able to combine vowel and consonant sounds.
Stimulating Language Development
Every child is unique and develops at his own pace. Try not to compare your child with other children as this can only cause you undue stress and unnecessary pressure for your child. The milestones enumerated above are just general ideas and should not be interpreted rigidly. Remember that some children can stay in one stage longer than others, while some may go through each stage very quickly. Instead of stressing yourself out, check out the following guide to help you jump start your baby’s language development:
Integrate language learning in your baby’s daily activities
As a parent, it is definitely exciting and challenging for you to help develop your baby’s language development. Your role is very important, as you are your baby’s constant companion. So, what do you do?
When your baby coos as you are changing his diaper, say something in return. This will help him get the idea that the sounds that come out of his or her mouth can catch mommy’s or daddy’s attention. Studies show that children who were responded to when they made sounds as babies had better cognitive skills when they were older.
Interact with your child as often as possible
According to studies, babies that are exposed to television learn six words less than their non-tv-viewing counterparts. Parents are advised not to let their children watch any television at all from ages 0 to 2.
Instead of plopping your baby in front of the television, find enjoyment in interacting with him. As you do things for him, pretend like you’re talking to an adult and explain what you’re doing in detail. Try to make communicating really fun and meaningful for your baby.
Talk to your baby the way he wants you to
You may think that talking in a high-pitched voice is silly, but experts say that this way of talking is actually beneficial for babies. Stretching out the sounds of each syllable helps babies become sensitive to individual letter sounds. This makes their auditory facilities more discerning. So start using that singsong intonation when talking to your baby.
Babies also need to see the lips move when somebody is talking to them. Before your baby can understand any word that you’re saying, he first needs to learn and see when one word ends and another one begins.
Help your baby learn the names of things
Object labeling is one important practice that parents can use to help their child’s language development. Parents can point to an object while saying, “This is ______.” Make sure that you are really pointing to the object you are naming so your baby can associate the right label with it.
While labeling things for your child, use exaggerated motions to attract his attention and make the experience not just auditory but visual as well.
Allow your baby to interact with other people
It is definitely tempting to keep your baby to yourself, but experts say that babies learn words easily if they are exposed to a variety of speakers. Researchers discovered that learning a new word becomes easier for babies when they hear it from different people.
You don’t have to wait for those ‘special moments’ to start helping your baby develop his language skill. Each moment that you spend with him is a ‘teachable moment’. Constantly talking to and interacting with your baby will go a long way in jumpstarting his language development. Forget the educational videos that promise to have your child talking in no time at all. What he needs is a real, live person taking the time to talk to him and teach him about the world. And that person is you.
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