If you have a baby or young child in the house you may feel at times as if everything is revolving around their needs. But in fact, you are the centre of their universe. And you have a new and uncritical fan. They will want to look at you, they will want to listen to you, they will want to play with you – and in the process they will learn to talk to you and to others.
Most people know that babies start to say words when they are about one – and some may know that unborn babies can hear. Many people don’t realise though how important the time is right from birth and throughout the preschool years for learning language – a tool for all the learning in life that will follow.
- Talk to them all the time – they won’t understand but they’ll love to hear your voice.
- Make eye contact with them while you talk.
- Exaggerate your facial expressions a bit to help hold their interest.
- Get them used to hearing their name – call it gently to try to get their attention and to get their attention back to you.
- Give them a chance to ‘talk’ back – wait after you’ve said something for them to respond with a gurgle, a smile or a movement.
Here are a few tips for 2 to 4 year-olds:
- Talk about the things around them…. The things they are doing and seeing and the places they visit
- Follow their interests – if they like trucks for example, find a book with pictures they will enjoy and talk to them about them about it, for example, ‘Look at those big round wheels.’ ‘We saw a truck like that at the park. It was dumping dirt’.
Keep your sentences short for younger children.
- Find out what they have been up to at preschool and let them do some of the same things/talk about the same things at home e.g. waterplay but at bathtime
- Have them ‘help’ with household tasks and talk about what you and they are doing.
- Read to them – if the story is long, talk about the pictures rather than readin the words.
Your child’s world will expand as they get older. But it’s not really until they are about seven years old that some of their admiration for you will be transferred to their teacher. So enjoy your ‘celebrity’ status in the meantime!
Anne Buckley and Margaret Maclagan are the authors of Talking Baby: Helping your child discover language.