The ability to communicate is an intrinsic human ability that starts very early on in life. In fact, there is emerging evidence that the development of early communication might even begin in the womb! Here are five useful tips about how to optimise your child’s communication skills from day one:
#1 Actively talk to your baby
Although your baby might not understand exactly what you’re saying, there are many early communication skills that s/he will pick up from you! Make eye contact with your child and speak in ‘Motherese’ (also known as ‘baby talk’, where you speak to a baby in a higher pitched, cooing voice). Coordinate what you are saying with appropriate facial expressions, and also ask short questions, such as ‘do you want more?’, or ‘where’s Daddy/Mummy?’.
#2 Create opportunities for language
Help your baby pick up language by using a variety of context-specific words in different situations. For example, name items out loud during mealtimes and bath-time, and point to and name what your baby sees in different surroundings. S/he might not be able to read until later, but it will also be useful (and fun!) to look at picture books with your baby and describe the pictures s/he sees. Singing nursery rhymes is another great method of communication and language stimulation!
#3 Build your child’s vocabulary
You will likely be the main source of vocabulary learning for your child at this stage, and you can help your child learn new sounds and words. There are some sounds (such as ‘r’ and ‘z’) that many children will only learn to produce successfully when they are aged between five to eight years of age, so do not focus negatively on any mistakes. Instead, teach your child the right way of saying sounds and words by repeating them to him/her clearly after he/she says them. Don’t forget that imitation is a good way of learning speech in a child’s early development!
#4 Remove distractions during communication
Ensure your child hears you clearly when you are talking to him/her. Try turning the TV or radio off, and make sure you establish and maintain eye contact with your child where possible. Real life communication and situations produce the best opportunities for communication, so remember that playing on the Ipad or phone will only entertain your child rather than stimulate speech/language skills.
#5 Get help if your child has any difficulties
Due to the complexity of speech and language development, it is not surprising that some children would run in to difficulties when learning how to talk. If you feel that your child is not progressing normally with his/her communication skills, see your doctor and get a referral to see a speech pathologist. A speech pathologist can work with you to figure out what to do to help your child achieve his/her full potential and minimise any frustrations involved in communication.
Having a baby is an exciting time! How you bond and interact with the newest member of your family could form the basis of fond memories for both of you, and be important in the development of your child’s budding communication skills. Contact Scope Clinical Services if you have any concerns or need more information.