How to Teach you Baby to Talk
Knowing how to teach your baby to talk can help speed up your child’s language and general mental development. It’s important to remember that just because your child isn’t talking yet that they are lesser developed as they could have been concentrating their mental efforts on things such as motor skills. It’s also important to note that language isn’t just about words and pronunciation- verbal language is only a very small percentage of human communication.
1- Interaction. Helping our babies acquire language skills may be easier and more natural than we think; those of us who have called this process “learning to talk” have had it all wrong; the art of communication is much broader than our babies acquiring new words and regurgitating them upon command. It requires a positive environment that fosters trust and celebrates success. It requires repetition. Most important it requires fun. As long as you talk to your kids and keep them interested, you’ll be teaching them to talk. If you’re having difficulty grasping this concept, it can very easily be likened to adults learning a new language: You can learn the theory and appreciate vocabulary all you like, but it’s not until you’re immersed in the language will you actually start to pick it up.
2- Immersion. It’s never too early to instill a love for language. Engaged your child as much as possible, perhaps even devise games based on language? Babies are learning to appreciate elements of language whilst in the womb, it just takes a while to piece everything together. The more they hear it and are immersed in it, the quicker they can piece it together.
3- Repetition. Repetition works, however the use of the word has to be contextual i.e. when you’d normally use it, as otherwise the word becomes just a meaningless sound. One great way to achieve this goal is by using “self-talk” (the clinical term for a play-by-play of one’s day-to-day activities). Essentially you’ll be narrating your own life. This is a good way of filling the silences!
4- Conversation. When speaking to your child, allow for a response, even if he/she isn’t old or verbal enough to give one. Also be patient. If your child misidentifies certain colors or objects, be sure to acknowledge the effort in itself.
5- Turn off the television. Programs are no substitute for face-to-face, one-on-one interactions.
6- Positive reinforcement. Be as congratulatory as possible when your child says a word. Make it fun! Ask open-ended questions such as “What do you see over there?” (rather than “is that a bird?”, allowing time for your baby to respond in their own way. Perhaps most importantly, engage your child and look them in the eye when speaking to them. Become excited but also reinforce what they say by responding contingently, either by getting them what they are requesting or by making a very related, relevant comment.
Babies develop at their own pace, but if by 18 months your child isn’t speaking at least 15 words, contact your paediatrician. Don’t write it off as a phase. The sooner you have the child evaluated for speech pathologies, the sooner you can help reverse the situation if something is off—which isn’t always the case.