If you work with and care for babies, you play a very important part in their early language development. You probably already talk to the babies in your care as part of keeping them happy and engaged— but here are some other specific tips for taking their language development even further during everyday interactions. There are so many fun ways to include babies in your conversations, even when they’re too young to talk back!
And in childcare settings that include young children of different ages, including babies in everyday talk also helps you do two crucial things at once: meet their developmental needs while you care for and teach the older children.
A Timeline of Talk
Fun & Easy Activities that Boost Babies’ Language Development
While baby is rested, relaxed, and looking at your face, softly say a long “oooooooo” sound. Watch how she reacts. When baby is a few weeks old, she may think your “ooooo” face is very interesting and try to make one, too. Soon baby will try to say “ooooooo” back.
Talk to your baby about her day and what’s going to happen next. She doesn’t know the words yet but will very soon. This will help your baby learn routines: “It’s time for a nap.” “It’s time to eat.”
With your baby cuddled on your lap, hold a book with simple, clear, colorful pictures so that both of you can see. You could also look at magazines, newspaper ads, or family photos. Talk softly about what you see as you point to the pictures. Baby will learn that reading time is very special.
When sounds happen around the house, help baby notice by talking about them: “I hear the phone ringing. I hear your brother calling.”
As your baby begins to experiment with his voice, you will probably hear “ba,” “mmm,” and “da” and “ah,” “ee,” and “oo” sounds. Imitate the sounds baby makes. While you make the sound, let your baby put his fingers on your lips to feel the vibrations.
Your baby is discovering different body parts and probably has become very interested in his feet and hands. Encourage him by playing games with fingers and toes, such as “This Little Piggy.” Talk about his body parts. When he touches his feet, say, “You found your feet!”
When baby is awake and alert, turn off the television and other household sounds so that he only hears your voice. This helps baby hear the sounds of words more clearly. Hum and sing just for baby’s pleasure. Ask baby, “Can you hear a bird? Can you hear the rain?”
Your baby is learning to enjoy imitation. Encourage this by showing your baby how to play Follow the Leader. Use simple movements, such as tapping on the table or putting a hat on your head. Talk about what you are doing. Say, “It’s your turn,” and see if your baby will follow along.
While you do housework or get a meal together, talk to your baby about what you are doing. Encourage your little one to use two words together to make baby sentences, such as “Help me” or “More juice.” This big language step will grow into a lot of talk.
Take baby to the supermarket with you so baby can “help.” Talk about all of the colors and smells. Let baby hold something, such as a small can or a lemon. At the checkout, let baby “pay” the cashier. What a good helper!
Adapted from ASQ-3TM Learning Activities by Elizabeth Twombly, M.S., & Ginger Fink, M.A., Brookes Publishing Co.
Including Babes in conversations
12 Tips for Early Care Providers &/or with their older Siblings
1. Carry a young or tired infant in a sling, positioned so that he can watch the action and listen to the conversation, but turn away when he has had enough.
2. Hold the baby on your lap as you read to older children, but let her crawl away or play with other (quiet) toys if she loses interest.
3. Give the baby rattles or shakers and encourage him to join the fun when older children are singing, dancing, and making music. Let the baby ride in or push a stroller to join toddlers and preschoolers in a marching band.
4. Hold the baby on your lap as you watch older children put on a dramatic performance. Clap the baby’s hands at appropriate times, and encourage her to cheer along with you.
5. Make a protected pen or corral out of low furniture or pillows, where you can sit with one or two infants. Comment on what the older children are doing as you watch them together.
6. Schedule one-to-one time with each child. In addition, use diaper changing and feeding routines as opportunities to share favorite songs, rhyming games, and intimate conversations. Ask older children to help by getting a toy or book for the baby or singing a song ornursery rhyme with you.
7. Show older children what the baby can do and engage them in helping to set up interesting challenges for him. Encourage them to talk to the baby.
8. Help older children involve the baby in their play in appropriate ways. For example, they can offer her toy food from their pretend restaurant, let her ring the bell on their pretend train, or show her how to help with cleanup by wheeling trucks into a cardboard box garage or tossing toys into a bin.
9.Teach older children how to tell when the baby has had enough.
10. Talk with older children about all of the things the baby is learning. Help them make laminated books about his favorite activities that they can read to him.
11. Include the baby in daily meals and special celebrations. Help other children to listen to the baby’s babbles, repeat her sounds, and engage her in baby talk.
12. At the end of the day, as you transition the baby back to his family, talk about all of the things he has done with his friends.