Whether you have recently welcomed your first little bundle of joy, or if this isn’t your first rodeo, the arrival of a newborn brings many conflicting emotions – elation, joy and protectiveness but also cautiousness, worry and confusion. All of a sudden we question how we can give our babies the best start in life. We contemplate nappy choices, feeding styles, sleep routines, the best toys. And in all this questioning, we often wonder how to engage with our baby so they can grow and develop essential skills.
Speech and language skills, just like rolling, sitting, crawling, grabbing, sucking, are a big part of your babies development. From the first babble, your baby is testing their speech and language skills. And as you contemplate all the things you can do to support your babies development, talking and interacting with your baby is perhaps the best place to start. Read on to discover the importance of talking with your baby and how you can help them grow with our simple speech and language tips.
Your Baby’s Brain Development
It’s hard to imagine that 80% of your baby’s brain development occurs by the time their third birthday comes around. They are absorbing so much in those early years, with your baby’s brain developing in four main ways:
- Motor Skills: this includes skills like rolling, crawling, walking, grasping, and other movements of the body
- Social and Emotional Skills: this includes a baby’s experience, expression and management of emotions
- Cognitive Development: this refers to your baby’s thinking, problem solving and learning
- Language and Communication Skills: this refers to what your baby understands, how they express themselves, the sounds they make, as well as play and attention skills
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the fourth area of development – language and communication skills.
The Importance of Language and Communication Development in the Early Years
Families often question when they should start helping their babies to grow their communication skills and the answer is as soon as possible! Although those early months are a blur of feeds, nappy changes and naps (hopefully for baby and you!), your baby is also very busy communicating with you through cries, coos, facial expressions and body language. And research shows us that regular interaction with other people, preferably loved ones, can grow these communication skills even further.
So how can we interact with our babies to support their language skills?
Our Top Tips for Growing Your Baby’s Speech and Language Skills
Talk to Your Baby
It sounds obvious but speaking to your baby is so important when it comes to growing their speech and language skills. When you speak to your baby, it helps to ignite the language area of their brain. The more words your baby hears, the stronger these brain connections become. Try talking to your baby using short simple sentences, use an animated tone of voice and pause to give your baby a chance to ‘respond’.
Listen to Your Baby
Show your baby that you are listening by getting face to face with them. Look at your baby’s face and imitate their smiles and facial expressions. Copy the sounds your baby makes and ‘take turns’ at making these sounds, just like you would in a real conversation.
Play with Your Baby
You’ve heard the saying ‘play is our brains favourite way to learn’? Then it is not surprising to learn that simply playing with your baby can help them develop many essential skills, including their speech and language skills. Sing nursery rhymes and other songs with your baby, and incorporate finger play games (Think Playschool and songs like ‘Where is Thumbkin?’). Play alongside your baby, copying their actions with toys and objects. Focus on your baby’s hearing and listening skills by pointing out sounds, such as a bird chirping outside or a plane flying overhead.
Share Books with Your Baby
We are big fans of books and sharing stories is such a wonderful way to engage with your baby and grow their communication skills. Choose interactive books that have different textures, lift-the-flap options or other features to spark your baby’s interest. Point out the pictures in the stories and name objects. Let your baby lead the book sharing, turning the pages when they are ready, rather than reading the book ‘perfectly’ from beginning to end. Click here to discover more top reading tips.
The first year of your baby’s life is one of exploration, growth and wonder. By incorporating some of our top tips into your day, you can help your baby grow their speech and language skills and become confident communicators.