22 January 2009
Can’t wait to hear your toddler call you ma or papa? Here are eight ways to ensure smart baby talk
“Ab bolo‘¦ Czechoslovakia!” – Over-zealous father to toddler in a TV commercial
Not that all fathers behave like the one in the above mentioned advert for insurance plans, but most begin having great expectations of their under-oneyear-old babies. Your toddler saying mamma and papa for the first time may be the greatest music to your ears, so it is easy to be overexcited. However, instead of leaving it to the powers above, you yourself can improve your baby’s communication skills in ways which would entertain you too.
- Respond when your Baby Cries
Crying is the only manner of communication through most of the baby’s first year. When you respond to their cries, babies learn that they will be heard and that the world is a safe place where their needs will be met.
- Have Conversations, Always
Babies begin ‘conversing’ by ‘taking turns’. They coo, look at you and wait. You coo and they coo back. It’s in this simple interaction that they are practicing the structure of conversation and are learning that they will be responded to when they reach out to communicate.
- Speak Naturally
Babies learn receptive language skills long before they learn expressive ones. Your toddler will understand what you are saying to her well before he/she is able to speak many words. Needless to say, babies who grow up in a language-rich environment learn to speak naturally. Regularly talking and listening to your toddler will make her readily accept the new world of words. Modelling language is your best teaching tool. Only when you model correct language will they learn proper grammar.
- Describe What You See
To expedite the learning process, it is important you describe what you see or do together. For example, when your baby reaches for your ear, you can say, “That’s my ear. Are you going to grab it with your little hand?” When (s)he turns towards an opening door, you can say, “You heard the door opening. Is that your sister coming in?” These moments can make both your and the child’s togetherness entertaining. Make sure to be loud and clear, and use simple, important words.
- Talk About Actions
It sure can feel odd to talk to a baby who doesn’t understand you, but (s)he needs the reinforcements of your words in order to understand the mother tongues. Keep telling them what you do. For example, before you pick your baby child, you can reach your hands towards him and say, “I’m going to pick my little baby...” This way, (s)he will learn language in the rich context of experience. This not only helps him learn, it also helps to expect what will come next and participate more actively in the process.
- Tell Them About Your Day
Engaging in self-talk around your baby teaches language and helps him/her make sense of the world. Make it a habit of describing what you’re doing as you do it: “I’m going to the market this evening‘¦ so that I can buy some mum-mum for my princess!” is an example. Tell them about your activities. After all, you’re going to ask them where they’re going for most part of their lives!
- Remember Songs and Stories
Singing and talking rhythmically are important ways of teaching a language. Because of the repetition, children get a chance to learn them over time. Lullabies, finger plays or movement activities teach children words that have physical clues attached.
For example, when your baby has learned a clapping song, he/she can ask for it by clapping her hands, even before she knows how to say, “I want to sing the clapping song!”
- Make The Most of Books
Walk in to the baby section of the bookstore and thou shalt be enlightened by the sheer creativity within the pages of some of them. Reading out to them and subsequently making them read are basic building blocks of language. Look for books with aestheticallypleasing pictures. Don’t only look at cartoons, but also for rich, varied or poetic language. Some babies lie on their backs with you on the floor looking up at a book for several minutes at a time. Others will wiggle and squirm. There is no magic age to begin reading to children. It should be as soon as they can enjoy it. Try it periodically to see your baby’s interest. You can also make books/scrapbooks for your child, using photos of family/friends/cartoon characters. If your home allows the space, mount them on cardboards and put them together with string or loose leaf rings.