Talking and Engaging More Effectively
14 Quick and Simple Tips for YEAR 1

  1. Treat your baby as a full conversational partner right from birth. Respond to grunts, babbles, arm waves, smiles, leg kicks, sounds, etc. like ‘real’ speech. Smile back, comment on them…
  2. Have lots of face-to-face conversations. Your face is your baby’s best toy. When you talk, stay face to face, and talk directly with your child. Talk right from the get-go, and talk a lot (Avoid talking 24/7, though).
  3. Observe the baby’s cues, and adjust your interaction accordingly. Babies can easily get overstimulated, and engaging too much for too long can be stressful. Back off, if your baby shows distress and give time to relax. Some babies may be hypersensitive to everyday experiences such as touch, sound, and they get overwhelmed more easily. Take your interaction down a notch, and only look at your baby (without talking), or the other way around. Tune in to your baby’s signals. Use your voice to calm your baby down, or to arouse him.
  4. Talk in Baby Talk/Parentese. In normal words and short sentences with clear pauses, clear articulation and a sing-songy, upbeat tone. Give your baby different listening experiences where you whisper, go down low with your voice, go up high – this sharpens her listening.
  5. Stay positive. Keeping a positive tone from the beginning is key since babies pick up other people’s emotions from their faces and their tone of voice early on.
  6. Have one-on-one chats: Have back & forth exchanges where you keep the conversation going as long as you can. PAUSE for a few seconds, so your child can chime in as well. Anything your child does counts as a turn at first: a grunt, cooing, kicking the legs. Then respond: Oh, I see you like my voice. You’re kicking your legs.
  7. Quickly and consistently respond to your baby. This quick response indicates ‘yes, I’m with you’ and tells your baby that you’re still there and that you acknowledged what she did or said.
  8. Follow your child’s lead. See what the baby is interested in, where his eyes, arms or fingers go, and follow him there. This shows the baby that you are interested in him, his actions, and creates joint attention which helps word learning in the early stages. Following your child also helps you connect with your child.
  9. Sing often. Singing is a perfect language and bonding ‘lesson’. Sing in parentese (babytalk style), exaggerate what your voice can do and use its full range. Adjust the songs to your baby’s cues – if she’s tired, sing lullabies; if she’s upbeat, pick an upbeat melody and song. Include actions songs with very simple actions which you name, for example: Henry is WAVING, WAVING, … Make up your own songs, use personalized songs where you replace the name in a well-known song by your child’s name: Timmy had a little lamb, … Singing yourself is the best.
  10. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. Babies learn through repetition and the more they hear sounds, words, see actions, the more chances they have to learn about them. Repeat all sorts of things – sounds, facial expressions, actions, gestures, words, … Repetition makes information stick more easily and helps the brain to learn.
  11. Read aloud with your baby – starting from birth, a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics as of June 2014. At first, it doesn’t really matter what you read as long as you’re face to face with your baby, and she can hear your loving voice, feel your skin, and see your mouth moving.
  12. Label objects as your child looks or points at things. Labeling helps word learning. Highlight the labels by dragging out the target word, making it longer: See the DOOOOGGGIIIIEE? Where’s are your FEEEEEET?
  13. Point to things that you’re going to talk about. This directs the child’s attention to the object you are interested in, and she is then focused on it, as you label it. She also learns the communicative function of pointing: “Mom doesn’t just point for fun but she wants to share something with me.”
  14. Treat babbles like real speech, and respond to them. Babbling, when your child combines vowels and consonants, saying his first da da’s, or ma ma’s is a big language milestone. Pick up your child’s babbles, copy them, and expand them. Respond with speech sounds, real words, loving back rubs…, respond lovingly, consistently and timely.