How to get your baby talking
Understanding, and being understood, are essential skills, and learning them starts from birth, says Pip Jones
It’s a magical moment for a mum when their newborn starts cooing – and not just because it makes a nice change from crying. Those early attempts at communication quickly become more frequent, and before long your baby will be babbling away, already on their path to... well, answering back.
Mandy Grist, a speech and language therapist with I CAN, the UK’s children’s communication charity (ican.org.uk), says, ‘Parents should remember that any time is communication time. Whether at meals, bath time or out and about, we can focus on communication and language.’
It’s hard to stress enough how important these skills are. According to Talking Point (talkingpoint.org.uk), over a million children in the UK have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and, if left unidentified, these children can struggle all through school and into later life.
So, from spending time talking to your baby to consciously getting your toddler excited about new words, it’s good to know there’s plenty we parents can do to help get our children comprehending and communicating well. If fact, there’s so much you can do, you’ll need an A-Z.
A is for Apps
In the years since mobile technology became the norm, one thing has become clear – experts are concerned about the increasing amount of time children are spending in front of screens. It goes without saying that apps are no substitute whatsoever for one-to-one interaction with parents or other caregivers. But, explored together in short bursts, there are good apps which will give parents creative ideas for promoting reading and vocabulary in their toddlers. For advice on the quality of apps, and their appropriateness for children of various ages, visit commonsensemedia.org, which aims to help tots thrive in a world of media and technology, rather than be bogged down by it.
B is for Big Words
Don’t be afraid to use them some of the time – there’s no need always to dumb down. A study back in the 1990s showed that young children whose parents used more ‘rare words’ had higher vocabularies and better reading achievements than other children. Even if your child doesn’t ask what the big words mean, the context in which they’re used may help them to understand. One day, you might be surprised to hear them say that big word back to you.
C is for Context
Context is a super tool for helping your child both learn and to understand new words, and remember them. For example, take a kiwi fruit. Don’t just show your tot a kiwi and say, ‘This is a kiwi.’ Say, ‘This kiwi is a fruit. You can eat it like a plum!’ This will help them understand exactly what it is. Give the kiwi a backstory too, to help make it more memorable. So you could say, ‘A kiwi is a weird hairy fruit, which is grown in hot countries where the sun is always shining.’