Helping My Baby Communicate
By Deborah Hoch
Deborah Hoch, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech pathologist with a practice in South Huntington.
We hear a lot about our children learning how to talk: developing vocabularies, putting words together in a sentence and putting sentences together to tell about something. But how about when our children are babies? Are there expectations for their communication as well? Of course there are! Before our children learn how to talk with words they are “telling” us how they feel, asking for things, rejecting what they don’t want or like and engaging in “conversation,” just not in the same ways that our preschoolers and older are.
When babies are first born I’m sure we all know that their primary means of communication is crying, and how frustrating this can be for parents! This crying changes, however, depending upon the needs of your baby and then this soon develops into other behaviors. At 1-3 months of age your baby will start to respond to your voice by smiling, becoming quiet when you speak and/or getting excited by moving his/her arms and legs and opening the hands. He/she will turn towards sounds and pay attention to faces, often look at you when you speak and respond by smiling or making some vocalizations. Soon your baby will begin to exhibit voice changes and play with different sounds (typically vowel sounds and “p, b, m”) by babbling, cooing and gurgling. In these first 3-5 months your baby will use jargon (non-meaningful gibberish), laugh and repeat the same syllables in a row. At this point we can engage in “conversations” with our babies by responding to their strings of sounds and voice changes with our own words and sentences and by imitating what they have said. These vocal exchanges are important for laying the groundwork for actual conversations by teaching our babies how to express themselves with appropriate and effective intonational patterns and how to take turns in conversation.
So what can we do as parents to help develop good communication skills in our babies so they will be able to develop the best speech and language skills that they can ? Here are a few suggestions of easy, fun and stimulating activities that you can do every day in your own home, in your car or wherever you and your baby may go:
. Read to your baby! This is so important for your child to get used to your voice that you can even start to do this while you are still pregnant! After your baby is born you may read any books, including of course baby books, so your child begins to focus on the tone of your voice and the sounds you are making, and eventually the words as well.
.Sing to your baby! Because music activates different parts of the brain than talking does, singing any songs at all will help to promote good language skills. But don’t just play songs on CDs, iPODS, DVDs and TV- while these may also be helpful, face-to-face human contact is crucial for your baby to learn about human communication skills and social interaction. As your baby starts to become familiar with songs, leave some parts out and see if he/she can fill them in.
.Play social games and use nursery rhymes! Social games are a fun and great way for you to interact with your baby before he/she has words to express himself/herself. Games and nursery rhymes such as peek-a-boo, so big, this little piggy, row your boat, wheels on the bus and twinkle twinkle are old favorites that still work well!
.Have tummy to tummy time! Lay your baby on your stomach and chest so his/her face is pointing up to yours. While your baby is watching you, play with sounds for your baby to hear. These can be silly sounds, sounds of the alphabet, and if your baby makes any sounds repeat these back.
.Talk to your baby! It is never too early to talk to your baby, all of the time, about anything and everything. Once again, turn off the electronics and talk to your child about what you are doing, what he/she is doing, where you are going, what you are observing, etc. This will help to develop your child’s vocabulary when he/she gets older. Expose your baby to as many words as possible and just talk!
If you are unsure about your baby’s communication skills, you should contact a speech-pathologist to discuss your concerns and questions.
Please visit Deborah at www.deborahhochspeech.com with any questions you may have and she will be happy to respond promptly.