Activities to Help Your Child Communicate
Isn’t it amazing that babies begin communicating with us as soon as they’re born? They have a built-in ability to let us know that they need something without saying a single word! These communication skills develop as we respond to our babies and meet their needs.
As we learn to communicate with our babies through infant activities and play, we will encourage further development in language and communication. But before we discuss these activities, let’s look at the stages a baby goes through in their quest to communicate.
Stages of Infant Communication
Don’t be fooled! Just because your baby can’t speak, he interprets the world around him and interacts in a way that only infants can!
The Parkland Children’s Academy has a lot to say about infant communication. I think you’ll find this description of the stages of infant development helpful:
0 – 3 MONTHS
If you feel that someone is watching you, they are! Your baby is all ears and eyes, learning as you interact with the people and objects around you. At this stage, you’ll notice some definite modes of communication:
- Crying to express specific needs
- Recognizing voices
- Turning toward or away from sounds
4 – 6 MONTHS
This is the age of experimenting with new and complex ways of communicating and interacting:
- Responding to the tone of your voice
- Mimicking frequent sounds
- Vocally expressing joy or unhappiness
- Noticing the sounds of toys
7 – 10 MONTHS
Your baby attempts to communicate vocally now. You’ll notice that your baby is comprehending more and more. At this stage you’ll see your child:
- Copying sounds and gestures
- Pointing at people or things
- Understanding basic words such as “hello” and “yes”
- Making “naming” sounds such as “bababa” when referring to themselves
- Babbling with a wider range of vowels and consonants
10 – 12 MONTHS
At this fun stage, your baby will begin to understand basic requests or commands. And they will hilariously mimic everything! This is a good time to open their world to meet more people. During these months your baby will begin to:
- Follow instructions, such as “Come here,” or “Put that down.”
- Recognize simple objects, such as a toy or baby
- Imitate sounds more frequently and accurately
- Say simple words, such as “Uh-oh,” “Mama,” or “Dada.”
- Experiment with tone while babbling (sounding more like proper speech)
Encourage your little one as she meets these little milestones. A little enthusiasm goes a long way! Your baby will be motivated to keep exploring verbal communication.
Baby Activities that Help Language Development
Exposure to FUN and STIMULATING activities will keep your baby’s mind active, which is essential for building language and communication. Your body language, as well as words, tone, and sentence structure, all work together to communicate effectively.
Here are some important activities to engage in with your child:
1. TELL THEM WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
As you’re engaged in an activity, explain what’s going on. As you do, you’re building language confidence and even sentence structure. For example, when giving your baby a bath, talk about how the water feels: “Ooh, this water feels so nice and warm!” These words give them a context for the words they’re hearing, and they’ll learn to use these words appropriately.
2. SKIP THE BABY TALK
No matter your baby’s age, speak in full sentences, using rich and descriptive words. Help your child to finish their sentences so that they learn to express a complete thought. For example, if your baby says, “Thank,” respond by saying “Thank YOU!”
3. ANSWER QUESTIONS
Soon you’ll be able to converse with your child by asking questions, even if they’re not speaking in full sentences. You’re showing them how a conversation works. You’re also demonstrating that what they say is important to you, which makes them feel loved.
4. READ BOOKS TOGETHER
I’m sure you’ve heard over and over the importance of reading with your child! Studies show that reading has lasting effects on language, literacy, and reading skills. The key is to read with your child, involving them at a level they can handle. This may include baby pointing at the pictures or laughing with you. They are learning about many concepts, including intonation, rhythm, and comprehension.
5. BUILD A “FEELINGS” VOCABULARY
It’s important for your child to learn to describe how he feels. Expose him to different words that describe feelings, and one day he’ll be able to articulate feelings instead of being overwhelmed with intense emotions. Some “feeling words” include happy, sad, angry, tired, bored, irritated, frustrated, peaceful.
More Ideas to Encourage Communication!
- Use dolls and puppets. Teach your child to nod her head for yes and shake her head for no. With my little ones, dolls and puppets were a GAME CHANGER! They give your child something fun and exciting to look at while learning something new. When teaching this concept, start with questions that have obvious YES answers and obvious NO answers. For example: “Do you want ice cream?” (Obvious YES, for me at least!) “Do you want to go to bed now?” (Most likely NO.) Repeat this game over and over, and have fun exaggerating the head movements as you do!
- Create opportunities for your child to talk by causing something unexpected to happen! For example: Put your child in the bath but DON’T turn the water on! Sounds silly, we know! But when you suddenly skip a step in a familiar routine, your child will want to communicate with you because something just isn’t right!
- Have fun at the park. What an ideal opportunity to teach your child new words! Repeat the same words over and over, and soon she’ll be shouting them out herself! Here’s what you can say to get your babe in FULL SWING!
Once you get the hang of this, it’s a walk in the park!
To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you!