I love a good baby gender reveal. There is something exciting about expectantly watching the blue or pink colored cake, powder, or sprinkles appear after months of suspicions and speculations. There is a a lot of excitement and angst when parents and loved ones learn about the arrival of a new baby. Babies are adorable, cute, chunky and they require a lot of love, care and attention. Also, babies do not come with manuals. I have created six tips to help new parents-to-be learn how to encourage vocal and speech development in babies.
1. Interact and vocalize with your baby child.
It is very important to set aside time to play with your baby during their alert moments. Spend time connecting with your baby through singing songs, touching them, holding them, playing games with them, and bonding with them. Practice speaking directly to them while providing eye contact. Even though they aren't able to respond as yet, they are watching your facial expressions, looking at the movement of your lips, teeth and tongue and they are learning from you.
2. Use pacifier for calming only.
Pacifiers are great for providing non-nutritive sucking practice for babies and they help teach the baby to self-soothe. However, removing the pacifier allows baby to play with vocalization. This creates space in the babies mouth for them to practice turning their voice on and off. Additionally, I strongly caution against offering the pacifier past 5 month old because extended pacifier use can be very harmful to the development of baby's teeth and facial structure. Instead of the pacifier, offer your babies non-toxic chewing devices that are safe for babies so they can practice their feeding skills that are necessary for consuming solids around 6 month old.
3. Take turns vocalizing with baby.
Whenever you hear your baby making sounds, be deliberate about responding to your baby. After baby vocalizes, listen , and then talk. You can say, "is that right", "what happened next", "really", "tell me more". Having pretend conversations with your baby is a great way to promote healthy vocal and speech development in your baby.
4. Imitate what your baby says.
Whenever your baby produces sound, be sure to copy them. This gives your baby a good opportunity to practice vocal inflection, pitch, range, loudness and good habits for speaking.
5. Show child picture books at six months old.
Babies are like sponges and they soak up a lot of information during the first year of life. Show your baby bright and colorful pictures of common items and objects that baby may use. For example, babies first 100 words books have pictures of items related to feeding, bathing, getting dressed, animals, transportation and other items they use during daily activities. While showing the pictures to babies, be sure to name them and talk about their use. It is also helpful to demonstrate the function of objects while describing them to the baby. For example, show baby the comb while combing the baby's hair. This is a great way to teach your baby the names of various objects in their environment.
6. Read, read, read to your baby.
Cultivate a love for books early. It is never too early to start reading to your child. Many people assume that babies are clueless to their environment and lack the attention span to benefit from a story reading activity. On the contrary, babies are super smart human beings and the more language they hear in their environment, the more likely they are to develop a rich vocabulary. Start reading with your babies as long as they are awake to listen. I like to incorporate story reading into our daily schedule. During bedtime routine, grab a book about being sleepy and read it over and over an over again. Babies thrive on schedules, routines and things that are familiar.
I have shared with you six practical steps that you can implement today with your baby that will foster vocal and speech development. There are so many additional benefits such as bonding with your baby and creating predictable routines that also help babies to thrive during this critical phase of development.