Even if your child has not started using words, you can still communicate with your baby. By now you have probably deciphered what certain cries and coos mean; and your child has most likely learned the sound of your voice and turns his or her head toward you when you speak, acknowledging that you are talking. These are the first steps of communication, and building upon these can help your child easily master the use of words more easily and fluidly:
- Talk with your Baby. Maybe he or she is too young to understand when you share that you’re “going to the grocery store to pick up milk”, but research has shown that merely exposing your child to the sounds and various intonations of language can make it more familiar, and therefore, more graspable for him or her later on. Simply talking out loud about what is going on, what you are doing, or what he or she is currently seeing are all good ways to keep language in the environment. Children surrounded by language are more likely to pick it up. You can also talk with your baby by imitating him or her. Even if it’s just cooing or grunting, you should imitate the sound your child makes then wait for a response and once again copy it so he or she can hear and understand that learning is by imitation. This also lets them know that you are listening and the message they are giving out, and it’s being received. Listening and responding accordingly will then be included in the unspoken behavioral code.
- Sing Songs. Songs are a great way to introduce repetition and if the song has gestures or moves, your child will be able to communicate with those even before being able to speak. If the song has clapping in it, for example, it can clap to tell you if he or she wants to hear the ‘clapping song’.
- Read Stories. Books are a great way to capture children’s attention with the bright pictures and corresponding words and emotions conveyed. Often children will request to read the same story, or watch the same movie. This is because repetition is an integral part of learning. Hearing the same story over and over can help them understand, and listen for similarities so they can identify how to use this information to build their vocabulary and communicate more effectively.
- Feed your child in bite size pieces. This tip is obviously designed for children who are a bit older and are able to chew on solid food. By only feeding them small portions, you are encouraging them to ask for more. You can teach them a sign for more, or encourage them to make “mmmm” sounds until they are able to say “more.”
- Wait for them to communicate. When your child has gotten used to the above tactic, stop in the midst or before performing the act to tempt them to communicate his or her desires. If you pause in the middle of a story or song, wait until your child verbally asks for more. Keep any favorites toys or foods out of reach, so he or she is urged to ask for them either verbally or nonverbally.
These suggestions can give your child the extra push that will urge him or her to communicate with you more effectively. Take notice to what motivates your child, and what activities or conversations elicit the most favorable reactions. It may seem silly to talk with no response at first, but surrounding your child with words will enable him or her to learn verbal cues and respond more eloquently and with a higher level of confidence over time.