If you are a parent, you know how much babies like to talk. Sometimes it may even feel like they have their own language that only they can understand. Today we will discuss a few ways you can support your baby’s communication skills to ensure that they are developing along the desired timeline and become an effective communicator as they get older.
Typical Timeline of Communication
Before we get started with some tips to support your baby’s communication skills, let’s talk about normal development in terms of communication. It is important to remember that every child is unique and you should not panic if your child is a little bit behind of any of these milestones.
It is important to remember that communication is not limited to just verbal communication; it also includes nonverbal communication. At as young as two months of age, your child will smile at you to convey that they are happy. At four months of age your baby may be giggling and at six months they should be able to look at you when they hear your voice.
In terms of actually speaking, your baby will make cooing sounds around six to eight weeks. You will likely hear jargon from your baby (the language that sounds like one of their own) between ages six to eleven months. A good way to remember when your child is likely to say their first word is that it is around their first birthday! If your child is a little late you should not worry as some kids to not utter their first true word until fifteen months.
Engagement is perhaps the biggest way you can support your child’s communication skills. Even when they are simply cooing and giggling if you engage with them it will encourage them to continue to vocalize. You can engage with your child by reading to them or expanding on their vocalizations. When your child gets older, you can employ joint-book reading strategies to help them with communication and narrative skills!
There is actually a strategy called expansion or recast that have to do with helping your child with their communication skills. A great example of expansion from the Child Mind Institute is if your child says “Red truck” you could say “Yes, that is a big red truck.” The expansion strategy is basically adding something to the utterance that the child has already spoken. You can use intonation to put stress on different words you want your child to focus on.
Another way you can engage with your child is to comment on and describe what they are doing. You can pretend you are a sportscaster and narrate what the child is doing to make it a fun activity for the both of you.
Along with engaging your child in conversation, you want to also encourage creativity and encourage your child to keep talking! For example, the Child Mind Institute recommends avoiding negative statements in order to keep the creativity alive. For example, if your child is coloring and chooses pink for the sky, you should not say “The sky isn’t pink!” because this will discourage your child’s creativity.
In addition to encouraging creativity, it is also important to encourage pretend play! You can allow your child to play pretend by themselves or join in on the fun with them. When they are playing pretend they will be working on their communication skills and letting their creativity grow and grow!
Think about Your Child’s Feelings
When your child is developing language, it is important that you communicate that you understand how they are feeling, especially if you are punishing them. For example, if you are trying to get your child to sleep in their room, you could say something like “I know it can be scary to sleep alone, but I need you to sleep in your room. Would it help if your favorite teddy joins you in bed?”
Be a Good Role Model
This tip is important for all aspects of development. Your child will pick up on things that you do and say without you even knowing, so it is important that you are always consciously aware of your actions if you want to set a good example for your child.
Overall, the more you engage with your child, the better their communication skills should be! If you notice that your child is a little behind on their communication milestones, it is no reason to panic because every child develops at a different rate. You can always speak with your child’s doctor if you think they are getting too far behind.