Before you know it, your child will transform from a babbling baby to a gabbing grade-schooler. While she’ll reach this milestone in her own time -- simply by watching, listening, and engaging with you -- you can encourage speech development using these four tips.
Keep up the conversation, even if it feels one-sided
At this young age, constant chatter is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and foster speech development. Talk to your baby throughout the day as you go about your chores, even if it feels silly. Tell her about the pasta you’re cooking, talk about the color of the clothes you’re folding, or point out the shoes you pass by at the mall. Even if your child can’t respond yet, she is always listening and understands more than you think.
Focus on speech development during story time
Reading to your baby is an important part of speech development. The act of reading introduces your child to new words, and looking at pictures together helps your baby understand the idea that everything has a name. Point to, say, a car in an illustration and say “car” aloud, encouraging your baby to repeat it after you.
Resist baby talk
Your child’s first words probably won’t sound like real words. For example, “daw” might mean dog to her. While it’s important to acknowledge these words, resist the urge to use them while talking to her, no matter how adorable they sound. Instead, when you repeat the word back to your baby, use the proper pronunciation so she’ll eventually make the correction.
Narrate your baby’s actions to improve associations
By the end of her first year, your baby may be communicating by pointing or crawling toward what she’s trying to convey. Encourage her attempts and expand your little one’s vocabulary by narrating what she’s doing. If you notice your baby reaching for her sippy cup, for example, say, “Oh, you want your cup!” This narration will help her connect the name to the object, and she’ll eventually stop pointing and start asking for it instead.