Four Ways to Help Get Baby Talking

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.

Photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash

Four Favorite Count-With-Baby Rhymes

For many of us, our fondest childhood memories include spending one-on-one rocking chair time with Mom or Dad. Often, those times involved cheerful singsong rhymes and baby games, and we cooed and giggled with delight. Who knew the seeds of learning were being planted?

Counting rhymes are a chipper and silly, not to mention highly interactive, way to begin to familiarize your baby with numbers. While counting 10 or more objects is a developmental milestone that’s still a few years away, you can start laying the groundwork during your baby’s infancy.

Why counting songs work
Babies learn best from humans as opposed to screens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group recommends keeping children under 2 years old as screen-free as possible. Unstructured playtime with Mom and Dad is more valuable to the developing brain than electronic media, say the experts.

Try these four favorite counting songs
Dive into one of these ditties at any point -- from high-chair time to bath time, diaper time, and stroller time -- and slip some counting into your baby's daily routine. Have fun and be silly, trying on curious voices and tempos. Don’t forget to build a little joint applause into the end of each rendition. The two of you are learning to count together!

“One Potato, Two Potatoes”
One potato, two potatoes
Three potatoes, four!

Five potatoes, six potatoes
Seven potatoes, more!

Recite this fitting nursery rhyme while preparing a meal for your baby. Demonstrate with actual potatoes, or replace the word “potatoes” with another fruit or veggie from your kitchen. Feeling lively? Toss in a little juggling action to entertain your baby.

“One, Two Buckle My Shoe”
One, two, buckle my shoe
Three, four, shut the door

Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight

Nine, ten, do it again!

Your baby might enjoy this playful rhyme while you’re changing her, especially when she’s just woken up.

“Five Little Monkeys”
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head

Mama called the doctor, and the doctor said
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed”

This one is an obvious ideal for bedtime rock-alongs. Each time you start a new verse, begin with a lower number and hold up the amount of fingers that corresponds. Your baby will be fast asleep in no time.

“This Little Piggy Went to Market”
This little piggy went to the market. That’s one!
This little piggy stayed home. That’s two!

This little piggy had roast beef. That’s three!
This little piggy had none. That’s four!

This little piggy cried wee-wee-wee all the way home. That’s five!

Because it’s a bit more interactive and playful, involving lightly wiggling your baby’s toes and squeezing her fingers, this rhyme is ideal for lap time. Have fun with it as you and your baby enjoy some precious bonding.

Your Baby’s Development

All parents want to hear the good news from their child’s pediatrician: “Your baby is healthy and growing well!” To make that determination, doctors check ears, eyes, nose, mouth, reflexes, spinal alignment, and more. But one particularly important tool for tracking your baby’s development is the standard growth chart.

What it is
Pediatricians use the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international growth chart to assess the progress of newborns to 2-year-olds. The chart shows the average height, weight, and head circumference of boys and girls at each month. When children fall within the expected range for their age, it’s generally a sign of good health. But if your baby doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad news -- healthy children come in all shapes and sizes. Your doctor will be in the best position to determine how your child is growing and thriving.

After your child turns 2, your pediatrician will use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s growth charts to monitor growth through age 18.

How it works
At each well visit, your health care provider will track your baby’s height and weight on a percentile chart and tell you where she is compared to other babies her age. What would, say, 40th percentile mean? If there were 100 babies in the United States, your child would be taller than 39 of them and smaller than 59 others. Don’t get too caught up in comparisons with your neighbors, though -- the chart is just a way for doctors to uncover potential problems. If your baby is gaining weight, getting proportionally longer and growing at a steady pace, she’s likely doing great!

Good to know
The WHO charts are based on the growth of infants who are breastfed for at least four months, so your formula-fed baby may measure slightly differently. For example, healthy breast-fed infants tend to gain weight more slowly than formula-fed infants after about three months. However, it’s important to remember that the range of what’s considered normal is wide. What’s more, babies grow in fits and spurts, so the trend of overall growth is more important than the measurements taken at any one visit.

With every doctor visit comes the exciting news of hearing all about your baby’s growth and development. Cherish every minute with your little one -- she won’t be little for long!

Why Won’t My Toddler Share?

Sharing is a foreign concept to toddlers. Their perspective at roughly 1 year of age is me, me, me -- self-centered and egocentric. It’s not that toddlers don’t want to share their dolls, bears, blocks, or fire engines. It’s that they haven’t begun to grasp the idea, let alone know how to do it.

Here’s what’s going on in your child’s head when she grabs a toy and shouts, “mine!” -- plus how you can help her learn to share. 

Understanding the behavior
Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 are socially and emotionally wrapped up in themselves. They believe the world revolves around them and are determined to put their own needs and wants first -- aggressively, if need be. They're completely clueless that they may be hurting other people’s feelings.

That’s because at this stage of toddler development, children have yet to develop empathy, the ability to imagine how someone else is feeling and respond with care. It’s a pretty complex skill to master. In order to feel empathy, toddlers must first understand that they are separate individuals and that other people can have different thoughts and feelings than they do. That paves the way for them to imagine what another person might be feeling (like when a friend falls off the slide) and how they can respond in a caring way (helping her up or offering a teddy bear, for example).

Promoting sharing
Lay the foundation for sharing by helping your toddler develop empathy. Here’s how:

  • Model sharing. Whenever possible, show your child sharing in action. You might say, “This soup is delicious. I’d like to share it with you. Do you want some?” Your toddler will learn from the example of your using kindness and respect when dealing with others.
  • Focus on emotions. When your toddler won’t share, identify the feelings that her behavior triggered: “When you took the ball from me, it hurt my feelings.” Similarly, it’s helpful to put a label on your toddler’s own emotions. You might say, “I see you’re upset that your friend took the blue block. It’s OK to be angry.” It may take a while for the message to sink in, but calling attention to emotions is a good way to begin raising awareness of other people’s feelings.
  • Practice with play. Act out scenes of sharing and not sharing using your toddler’s toys. How does it feel when her favorite train won’t let the other trains ride on her tracks? Demonstrate how to take turns. And when your toddler does share or take turns, praise her efforts. It sends the message that what she’s doing is right, which will encourage her to do it again.

Be patient as your little one is reaching milestones and learning to share. With your expert guidance, she’ll be well on her way to sharing, caring, and becoming a good friend.

How to Make Toddler Playtime Even Better

One of the best parts of parenthood is that you get to play like a kid again. Playing with your toddler is a blast, but there’s purpose behind this fun activity, too. Playtime aids in the development of important motor and cognitive skills and can help your toddler better understand the world around her.

Here are three ways to amp up your toddler’s playtime:

Challenge her imagination
Encourage your toddler to use her imagination to create wild, wonderful worlds that don’t already exist in her playroom. Building forts from pillows and blankets, singing into spoon ‘microphones’ and hosting tea parties for her stuffed animals are classic examples of imaginary play.

You can also foster this type of play by asking your toddler open-ended questions. So you might say something like, “What would happen if our couch was a boat?” or “Do you want to put on a puppet show with your dolls?” You might be surprised by what your toddler comes up with all on her own.

Reduce clutter
Providing a ton of toys for your toddler isn’t always the best course of action. If your toddler’s play space is packed, she may feel overwhelmed and lose focus.

Keep some of her toys in a closet and rotate out her “old” toys for “new” ones every few weeks. You’ll be surprised how much she appreciates her plastic piano when she’s not used it for a couple of days.

Back off
There’s tremendous value in encouraging independent play while you keep an eye out nearby. Independent play allows your toddler to feel more self-sufficient and can help encourage creativity.

When you do play together, be sure to give your toddler the opportunity to direct playtime. Often moms feel the need to talk the entire time they’re playing, but give your child the space to speak, too. You may be surprised what your toddler says when you give her the chance.

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash