The Dos and Don’ts to Start Your Baby Talking

 

“Hey Baby, get talking!” It’s what we all want to hear; Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle and Aunt, and even that cashier at Target with the big smile. All eyes and ears are on baby, waiting for those first words, phrases, and sentences. No one can wait to hear ‘em.

But what if they’re not coming? What if Baby coos, smiles, babbles, but doesn’t talk? What if she seems to understand what you are saying but doesn’t say anything back? What if she can only communicate her needs using gestures, facial expression, and that annoying, grunting, whine?

Where are the words? And how do you get them to start coming?

 

Don’t fret or stress out about this. Babies develop at different rates and most likely your baby is still “normal”. Producing the discrete sounds of language takes a lot of muscle coordination, and your baby may be working on these skills without you even noticing. Getting all stressed out will generate negative vibes that will most likely make your baby feel stressed out too. And that certainly won’t help matters.

 

Do bring up your concerns with your pediatrician. Most likely, your doctor will want to take a look at all of your baby’s developmental milestones. If your discussion reveals some concerns, you will likely want to reach out to Childlink to schedule an evaluation for your child.

 

Do make playful and repetitive language a part of your play routines. Playful sounds are not necessarily words, but they may be the bridge to learning words. Here are some simple routines you enjoy with your child and playful sounds you can model while having fun.

Play Routine Playful Sound
On playground swing or slide “Whee!”
Coloring “Dot! Dot! Dot!”
Peek-a-boo “Boo!”
Mealtime “Yum, yum!”
Story time Animal and vehicle sounds i.e. “Moo, beep-beep!”

 

Because playful sounds are simple and pleasurable to imitate, they may be the perfect bridge to language. Even if your toddler does not have excellent coordination of his or her oral muscles, s/he will likely be able to imitate at least some of the playful sounds you’ll be modeling.

 

Don’t expect your child’s first words to be articulated perfectly. Your child’s speech progresses from imperfect sound approximations (i.e. Dada) to clearly articulated words (i.e. Daddy). In order to encourage your child to keep talking and trying to express himself, it’s important that you accept and reinforce those sound approximations. So if the baby is saying “Dada”, now is the time to let him see his Daddy. It is not the time to correct him by insisting, “No, say ‘Daddy’ not ‘Dada’.”

 

Do engage your child in reciprocal interactions, whether these interactions are verbal or not. A reciprocal interaction is where the parent and child are responding to one another’s cues in a reciprocal manner. For example, baby waves, and mommy waves back. Baby pushes spoon at daddy’s mouth, and daddy makes silly eating noises. Reciprocal interactions are foundational for communication on all levels. They show baby that she effects the people around her, and vice versa. These interactions pave the way for verbal communication.