Isn’t it true that communication is one of the most critical skills for humans? This skill can be nurtured right from childbirth. While baby’s language takes a while to develop, it does not mean that the baby doesn’t communicate at all until this stage. It is up to you, the parent, to help the little one understand how language works and how the baby communicates in a way understood by the world. If you have been wondering when babies start talking, all you have to do is change your perspective and think about communication first and speech later and the means to improve this in your little one. Here are some activities that you can do from the newborn stage until your little one begins to stitch together simple words at age one.
Activities to Develop Baby’s Language Skills
The most important thing to remember is that babies learn to talk, communicate, and express through play. Here are a few activities, organized age wise:
Birth to Month 3
At this stage, baby learns to interact and communicate by watching you. But they have their techniques that include:
- Cooing and gurgling
- Changing the way they cry for different needs
- Reacting to familiar voices with smiles
- Reacting to sounds by turning towards or away from them
Activities for 0 to 3 Months:
- Baby can’t talk yet, but you can. Keep explaining things that you do whenever you are with the baby – bathing, feeding or going outside for a stroll. The baby observes your tone, pause and word formation, and then tries to mimic the sounds you make. The more input you give from this stage, the more information the baby is exposed to and can learn from.
- Respond to coos and gurgles by acknowledging them and giving your little one your attention on these sounds. This teaches the baby to use sounds to grab your attention. If he responds with a gurgle to you calling out his name, call out the name again and again and make it a game.
- Storytelling is a great way to help your baby learn that a sentence is made up of sounds and silences. He is too young to understand the story, but not too young to observe how you talk. Baby’s language and vocabulary develops faster when he is regularly exposed to storytelling.
Age 4 to 6 Months
Baby has now learned that he has can use his voice to communicate with you. He experiments with newer ways to ‘talk’ to you. He also explores his voice now. You will see him:
- Babbling to himself
- Reacting to the tone and not just your voice
- Trying to mimic words and sounds
- Trying to verbalize unhappiness, or happiness
- Showing interest in toys that make funny sounds
Activities for 4 to 6 Months:
- Play with noise making toys and show him how to produce the sounds.
- Introduce musical toys that he can turn on and off.
- Play peekaboo, where you call out the baby from different parts of the room, encouraging him to turn towards you. This cements the concept of responding when addressed in the baby’s mind
- ‘Talk’ to baby in the sounds they make, to encourage them to talk more and more.
Age 7 to 9 Months
Baby now has a fair idea of how a conversation works. You may find babies ‘talking’ to each other at play dates using their repertoire of gurgles, mimicked sounds, and experimental words. He is eager to talk and keenly observes the way you call out words. He also understands better what you mean when you talk to him. At this age, he:
- Makes a concerted effort to copy your talking style – both vocals and actions
- Understands simple words used most frequently and responds to them appropriately
- Points at things he wants to draw your attention to
- Understands that he can refer to himself with a specific sound, even if he doesn’t know how to say it
- Makes a number of new sounds that includes babbles, word-like sounds and longer strings of sounds to mimic sentences
Activities for 7 to 9 Months:
- Get a book of rhymes with colourful pictures and expose the baby to plenty of rhymes. Music is a great way to teach the baby more words and new ways to form sounds.
- Always remember to ‘converse’ with baby, responding to them when they try to communicate with you in their language.
- Explain to them what you are doing with them and use simple words repeatedly that they will associate with. For e.g. eat, spoon, zip, toy, soap, go, bye – are all words you can use repeatedly in the related actions to help baby understand the connection.
- Avoid baby talk and use normal words with emphasis on words that the baby seems to try hard to master.
- Get new reading material with colourful pictures for baby, so you expose him to more and more new words. Encourage them to point at pictures and try to call the name out loud.
- Help them ‘read aloud’ even if they produce a string of babbles. You can read one line and encourage the baby to ‘read’ the next.
Age 10 to 12 Months
If you have been asking yourself when babies start talking, you are at the stage when he can form simple words correctly. In the coming weeks, he will start trying newer words and probably master a few of them. In this phase, baby is:
- Understanding simple instructions and following them
- Trying to mimic everything they can see and hear
- Actively trying to ‘talk’ with others
- More accurately pronouncing simple words and sounds
- Adding newer words to their vocabulary
- Learning to talk in a series of sounds to mimic a sentence
Activities for 10 to 12 Months:
- Make story time a joint activity, with you and baby ‘reading’ together. Graduate to short stories now and encourage your baby to make appropriate gestures and expressions along with attempting to ‘tell’ you a story
- Sing songs and rhymes along with your baby. Babies love music, and you can have a blast doing this with them.
- Ask questions and help baby in answering you. A very important thing is to involve the baby actively in all conversations now.
- Start introducing new, more complex words for things they can’t see but feel. Tag emotions with the associated words, so they can express how they feel.
- Build stories by creating a scene, then asking baby what he thinks about next. Baby’s language doesn’t have the vocabulary or expertise to cohesively play this game yet, but it sets him on the path to actively try to express himself, to want to communicate, and telling him that he is expected to give inputs in a conversation.
Remember that communication is not just making sentences; it is far more than that, and it encompasses listening, gesturing, understanding and many more facets that you will observe in the baby’s language. To make your little one a good communicator, you must hone all these skills, and if you need professional help here, you can enrol them in some fun-filled programs that will nurture their brains and make them street smart from birth. We have listed some simple, fun activities that will help you achieve this from early on and support baby’s language development. Try them out and enjoy watching your child learn new sounds, words and means of expression.