You may have heard the advice that talking with your child is the best way to improve his or her communication skills. It sounds simple enough, but there is a little more to it. For example, it’s not just exposing your baby to talking that helps them pick up language skills. You can aid their understanding and communication abilities by actively engaging them with visual cues and gestures as well. Here are seven research-based ways you can help your baby learn to talk sooner and increase her vocabulary.
- Feed their curiosity: When you see your baby reach out for an object, it is because he/she is inquisitive about it. They want to touch, feel and know more about what they are seeing. So talking about the thing that has grabbed your baby’s attention – whether it is a watch, a toy or piece of fruit – can help them learn the word to describe it faster as they are your captive audience.
- Engage wholly with your child: Even though you could be talking to your baby the whole day, you may not be looking for non-verbal cues with which they are responding. Give your baby a chance to reply to what you are saying, even if it’s just a gesture of acknowledgement like a nod or a grunt. Respond to their communication so that they know you are paying attention and are encouraged to try and communicate with you.
- Answer questions: Kids are naturally curious and may sometimes ask more questions than you’d care to answer. However, remember that toddlers are still trying to grasp how the world works and answering their questions helps them form logical explanations. Even during storytelling, allow your kids to ask questions and get distracted by parallel conversations about the story. This encourages them to have a conversation and improves their verbal abilities.
- More than words: Remember that communication is not limited to language but includes hand gestures, facial expressions, tone and volume of voice too. Using all these skills when we communicate, even in exaggerated ways while storytelling, can help children understand how these cues are important in communication.
- Don’t simplify: It may be useful to repeat single words such as “ball” and “cat” to small babies who haven’t started to verbally communicate yet, but older babies should be spoken to in simple and clear sentences to help them expand their vocabularies.
- Repeat what you say: Repeat what you say. Repeat what you say. Anyone who has ever tried learning a phrase in a foreign language knows that it takes hearing it a few times to get it right. It’s the same for children. Another way to expose children to the same words often is to re-read books. While you may get sick and tired of reading a baby book after the twentieth time, toddlers love it! They might even join in and say the words as you read.
- Sing it: It doesn’t always have to be speech, you could also teach your child language by singing. Children love nursery-rhymes and the rhyming words also help prompt their memory. After a few repetitions, pause before the last word of a line and see if your child will fill in the word. Make little songs out of everyday activities, such as “One bite, chew-chew-chew.” Sing them your favourite songs or lullabies at bedtime.
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