Language Development: Baby

Below you will find 4 different language learning techniques to use with your infant. These techniques can be incorporated into all your daily interactions with your baby. For examples on how to use the last two techniques,  don't forget to click on the activities under each section. 

Before you get started, review the speech and language milestones for children under 12 months old below.

Speech & Language Milestones: 0-1 Years


Expressive Language
Speaking Skills

Receptive Language
Understanding Skills

  • Coos 
  • Babbles 
  • Makes sounds while playing 
  • Vocalizes to get attention 
  • Waves bye 
  • Laughs 
  • Imitates sounds (i.e., ah, ba) 
  • Smiles in response to familiar faces 
  • Explores objects with mouth  
  • Responds to name 
  • Knows mama and dada 
  • Responds to music 
  • Understand names of objects 
  • Plays social games 
  • Joint attention

If you want a checklist to print and keep track of progress, please clink on the link: Infant Speech and Language Milestone Checklist


Baby Language Learning Techniques

Baby Talk

Baby talk is the best way to talk to your baby. I understand this is some controversy over this, but believe me, it is the BEST!

What is baby talk?

It is the voice and words people naturally want to use when they interact with a baby.

Characteristics:

  • Sing-song tone
  • Short phrases
  • Cooing noises
  • High pitch voice
  • “Cute words” - i.e., mommy instead of mom
  • Long vowels

Benefits of Baby Talk

  1. Babies hear and attend to high intonation and soft tones more than adult like speech. 
  2. When you hold your baby's attention, you can make a greater impact regarding language exposure and bonding time.
  3. When using baby talk, parents exaggerate their facial expressions (i.e., lips and tongue). This exaggeration gives babies more visual clues on how to make sounds.

Parallel Talk

Parallel talk is an easy technique that most parents already use! I am, most likely, just giving it a name and congratulating you for doing it! Parallel talk is describing what your child is doing while he or she is doing it. This simple activity is helping to build your child's vocabulary and expose him or her to the sounds of their native language.

For example, if your child is eating puffs, you might say:

  • “You are eating puffs”
  • “Yummy puffs”
  • “You ate 3 puffs”
  • “mmmm, puffs”
  • "You ate green and yellow puffs"
  • "You picked up 4 puffs, wow!"

Parallel talk is an excellent way to expose your child to language. It is easy since you simply have to describe what your child is doing. The only tricky part is remembering to do it. Some parents struggle with this part since most babies don’t give any feedback that they are even listening. However, your baby is listening and this language input is invaluable.

A video demonstrating this technique is on the way...stay tuned!


Self-Talk

This is another easy technique that many parents already do; however, I do not think that parents do it enough. Self-talk is VERY similar to parallel talk; but, instead of describing what your child is doing, you describe what you are doing. You should start self-talk from the day your child is born, seriously!

For example, if you are at the store, you might say:

  • “We are shopping for bread”
  • “We bought 2 loaves”
  • “The bread smells yummy”
  • “I like bread”
  • “Bread feels soft and squishy”

Many parents may not use self-talk during the first year of life since their child doesn’t appear to be listening and/or cannot respond. Some parents feel silly since it appears they are only talking to themselves. However, I assure you, your child is listening! All that language input boosts language learning. So, you may feel crazy as you talk to your baby in the supermarket, but do it and blame me!

A video demonstrating this technique is on the way...stay tuned!


Imitation

Learning how to imitate is an important skill for learning language, maybe one of the most important. Therefore, this skill should be targeted early in life through play and daily interactions. However, due to your child's age, he or she will not be imitating you. Instead, you will be imitating your child. 

If your child does not vocalize much, start by imitating facial expressions and/or sounds. For example, if your child smiles or yawns, you smile or yawn. If your child vocalizes with an “ah,” repeat the “ah.” Make it funny and praise your child for allowing you to imitate him or her. See below for more specific ideas:


Social Games

Social games are fun to play and also a very important part of receptive language and social skills development. 

Social games works on eye contact, joint attention, early social skills, cause and effect, and object permanence (the realization that objects still exist once out of sight). Click below for some of my favorite social games to get some ideas:


› Baby Language