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How to encourage baby’s first words

Turning the babble into words is an important step for your baby, and there are plenty of ways you can help encourage them along…

Copyright RexThe milestone every mum can’t wait to reach – your baby’s first words. Whether it’s “mama”, “dada” or something simple like “no” or “up”, it’s enough to tug at your heartstrings.

But communicating with your baby can start very early on, such as when they are in your tummy during pregnancy. Many experts believe that speaking to your bump enables your little one to learn and recognise certain voices, especially mummy’s and daddy’s.

When your little one is born, he will be trying to communicate with you straight away through eye contact, which will soon be followed be cooing and smiling. Even crying is an important form of communication for a baby (although it sometimes may not feel like it!). Answering your baby’s cries early on will help him feel safe and secure, knowing you are there for him. 

Your baby’s first word generally arrives between ten and 14 months. Any time up to around 18 months is considered normal for a baby, so don’t worry if your little one is taking his time to speak. He may be using all his energy on another important milestone, such as crawling or walking! Remember, each baby is an individual so the pace at which he or she will develop may not be exactly the same as your friend’s child. If you’re worried about the pace of your baby’s development, speak to your doctor.

Although it will be a pretty much one-sided conversation, speak to your baby all the time. Keep your sentences short and simple: “We are going for a walk”.  Don’t be discouraged by his adorable, though mostly intelligible, babbling responses. Keep an eye on your baby’s receptive language. Does he turn his head when you call his name? If not, speak to your paediatrician, who may do a simple test to check his hearing.

Give everything a name – “this is a bottle”, “this is a blanket”. This will build up his vocabulary for later on. It’s also a good idea to master the art of call and response, by asking a question and responding, as this will help your little one to understand sentences further down the line.

Praise your baby every time he tries to speak, but never make fun of your little one if they get a word wrong, as this can put him off trying again. The tone of your voice is also important when you speak to your baby – keep your voice calm and quiet, and make sure you are on the same level, face-to-face as this will allow your baby to focus on you and not be distracted by anything else around.

Here are some other fun ways in which you can encourage your baby to communicate (as well as giving you both special bonding time):

•    Read together. He may not be able to understand what you’re saying at first, but many baby books today have different textures and bright, colourful pictures to stimulate his senses. Repeat certain words more than once, pointing at the picture, say of a dog. As your baby grows up, his brain will be learning to associate words with images, so this technique will help his first word come along.

•     Play games together. Again, he may not be able to understand what is going on, but it has the same effect – recognising objects and hearing the sounds will help him to copy you and build up his vocabulary. Start with something such as peekaboo, which will also help his listening skills to develop too – a prerequisite for communication.

As your baby reaches toddler age, don’t rush to fulfil his every desire – wait for him to ask you to refill his juice. When you are reading together, ask your toddler to describe what he can see in the pictures. These are great ways of further encouraging communication, which you can continue to do as your little child grows up to be a big child. Even as adults, we are always learning new vocabulary!

By turning the art of conversation into a fun, every day lesson, your little one will be speaking in no time. But for now, enjoy your baby’s nonsense babble. And maybe even join in?

Baby Talk Tales

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