Being a partner in your baby’s learning process is one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. Whilst your little one’s early sounds and first words are obviously incredibly proud moments, as the saying goes, it is about the journey as much as the destination. Your role as a parent is one of incredible responsibility and whilst your baby will talk when they want to, you can certainly play an active part in setting up a conducive learning environment. What you do as well as what you make available for them is therefore of paramount importance.
Encouraging your baby to listen is an important first step. You can make sure that there is quiet time when your baby listens only to your voice, or to gently-sounding audio-cued toys. Simple speech, nursery rhymes, and toys which make sounds are all great props which focus baby on using sound as a means of communicating certain messages. During this quiet time you can also play face to face. Let your baby watch your expressions and copy what you do. Take turns in making sounds as this stimulates the learning that conversations follow this pattern. Babies love repetition and so using this time with simple words and sentences repeated is not a problem. Also during this quiet time, follow your little one’s lead in picking the books and toys they want to play with, holding a conversation with them about their choices.
Helping your baby’s speech develop is also about building in speech at all times during the day. Use gestures when you speak to demonstrate meaning, narrate what you are doing as the day’s activities progress, and make eye contact as much as possible with appropriate facial expressions. Singing nursery rhymes is part of this but don’t worry if you are not a great singer. There are plenty of toys which can sing on your behalf if you wish. But also remember that you should build silence into your baby’s day so that they can process all this learning.
Reading is obviously an integral part to the development of your baby’s speech. Loving reading and books will also set up your child for life as these are skills they will need in order to learn academically later on. Telling a story using some of the beautiful books published nowadays is a wonderful experience and you can make the tale come alive by pointing out the detail, and even stopping and ‘discussing’ parts of the book. Highlighting similar characters, animals and places that your infant recognises is one way to keep the story vivid. It is after all important to remember that your little one learns by relating experiences personally. Another way to tie-in learning principles is to choose books which also have accompanying soft toys. The Gruffalo is one example where you can pair a story and play time together. You will have a winning partnership if you pursue some of these proposals.