Helping Baby Learn to Talk

In a loving household with a decent amount of social activity, a baby will naturally learn how to talk. Every baby is different. Some say their first words at seven or eight months old and are communicating basic things by the end of their first year, while others never make significant progress until well into their second year or even beyond. When your baby passes these milestones is not necessarily an indicator of her future social ability. Although babies do eventually learn to talk on their own, there are things you can do to help the process along. Keep in mind, though, that there are many factors that determine a child’s social abilities, and your encouragement might help only in marginal ways. But in any case, it cannot hurt. At the very least, you get some quality time interacting with your child. Here are some things you can do. 1. Have a talkative household: Much of what a baby learns comes through watching and listening to what is going on around her. Even when you are not interacting directly with your baby, be sure to have plenty of conversation around her. She will listen, and she will soon begin picking up on words, tones, and vocal patterns. 2. Keep a running commentary: When you are with your baby, even when just going through your routine activities, keep a running commentary on everything you are doing. Talk through bath times, meals, clothing changes, and everything else you do. This way, your baby will begin to associate certain words with certain objects and activities. But of course, it is a good idea to tone down the commentary when bed time is approaching. 3. Emphasize important words: Although the above activities will help your child get used to speech, there will also be times when you are working directly with your child to learn new words. At these times, emphasize only a handful of words representing things that are important to your child. “Mama” and “Dada” are the two obvious ones, but there are also words like “bottle,” “kitty,” “dolly,” and “snack,” which kids tend to grasp easily. Also, be sure to say your child’s name often. 4. Interact when baby wants to: If you try to force speech instruction on a child who is not in the mood, little will come of it. Instead, wait until your child is already in a communicative mood. You will know one of these moods when you see it. Your child will be especially vocal and may even make vocalizations that are obviously directed at you, even if you have no clue what they mean. Take this opportunity to talk back to your child on her level. You can use your special emphasized words, or just baby-talk back to her. 5. Allow self-instruction: Talking with your baby is a great way to urge him to start talking on his own, but much of the learning process takes place when the baby is making noises to himself. Beginning at around the six-month mark, you will start to hear him doing this often—making sounds that resemble words. These vocalizations may not mean much to the parent who is listening, but to a child they are practice. And the more practice he gets, the better he will become at imitating the sounds he hears others make. By Jamell Williams