When my daughter, was a baby, her vocabulary was (naturally) limited to “goos” and “gaas.” Even though she didn’t yet understand most of what I said, she was already digesting the sounds and words she’d need to become the little chatterbox that she is today.
It turns out that it’s important to talk regularly to new babies. Not only will they pick up on words, but the conversation will teach them socialization cues such as looking into a person’s eyes when chatting and learning to listen when others are talking. Start with these easy tips to encourage first words and raise a talker!
Group fun: Whenever possible, we got together with Grandma, aunts, and cousins and kept the conversation flowing, so that our daughter could become accustomed to hearing various voices. When new babies are familiar with people, it will put them more at ease, which may make it easier for them to learn. However, don’t let that stop you from letting less familiar people talk to your child, too. The more talking, the better!
Out and about: Bringing your new baby along on errands may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s actually a great learning experience. Babbling with the bank teller, cooing in the grocery store, and gazing at other babies in the park will help to improve social skills. My baby loved riding in her stroller for a daily outing to the diner, drug store, or just around the block a few times before her nap.
The dating game: My daughter’s baby and toddler play dates were a great way to encourage her first words and talking skills. Plus, the interaction was important for her baby development as she learned different forms of play, as well as how to share. I kept the play dates short (about an hour while she was under 24 months-old), and picked a time when she was in a good mood -- usually in the morning or after a nap. Model the kind and gentle behavior you’re trying to teach as you label toys (“Do you want to give Sarah the train?”) and narrate what’s going on.
Take a class: A music group, mommy and me yoga, or baby swim lessons can be a great way to interact with other babies and adults while learning to socialize and form words in order to boost your baby’s development. I took our baby to a music class each week where she bopped to the beat and rolled around on the floor with a new best friend. She loved it!
Every child starts talking at their own pace, but if you have any concerns that your new baby seems to be falling behind, speak to your pediatrician about what you can do to help speed up her conversational skills. And remember: Keep on talking to your new baby, even if it seems silly (like explaining to her how you are folding the laundry)! Every little bit truly counts.