Baby Language Development: Communication Skills
All babies are wired to communicate from the moment they are born. Your baby has been listening to you talk for months, especially the last three months before birth. In a scientific study, during the last three months before birth, babies were read aloud the Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat. After theses babies were born, they were able to recognize the same Dr. Seuss book they had heard in utero.
Listening (also known as receptive language) occurs before speaking (expressive language), so it is very important to remember to talk with your baby even before your baby can talk with you! The way you engage with your baby, your facial expressions, the rhythm of your voice, the upward inflection of your speech (known as parentese) will help form important connections with your baby and grow your relationship.
Being as your baby is not yet speaking with words, it is important for you to read your baby's behavior by watching and listening. Her behavior is all she has right now to tell you what she wants or how she feels. By watching and listening, you will be able to see the language your child is using to express herself. For example, if you get to know your baby's different cries, you will soon discover which one means "I am hungry, feed me," or "I am wet, change my diaper," or "I want attention, come hold me." By listening and watching, following your baby's cues and also following her lead, you both experience the give and take of communication.
Engaging with your child helps grow pathways in her brain that are vital for speech and baby's language development. Here are some ways you can further your little one's communication skills:
- Expose your baby to the rhythm of speech and language on a regular basis by reciting nursery rhymes, singing songs with your little one or just telling her what you are doing or feeling. ("Mommy is changing your diaper. It's stinky." "Are you tired? Let's get your pajamas." "Daddy loves you so much!")
- Sit your baby on your lap and read little stories to her. As she gets older, make it interactive. ("See the bunny? He has long ears!")
No matter what language you speak, you are your baby's model, and the relationship between you is as vital as the words that will be spoken.