Hey there, mama! I’m glad you landed here. I’m not exactly sure how you decided to click on this post, but it will be worth your time if you are trying to figure out the best way for teaching your baby to talk.
You might be pregnant with your first and scouring the internet for tips on being a great mom. (That is, if you are actually able to etch out some time where you aren’t puking your guts out/feeling exhausted/overwhelmed with emotion! Can I get an amen??)
Or you might be here because you’ve noticed that mom at the park who has a kid who is the SAME AGE as yours but somehow they are talking in full sentences while your little darling squeaks out a few (albeit cute) coos.
If it sounds like I’ve been in both scenarios, it’s because I have.
The cool thing is, I also have some knowledge to drop because I’m a speech therapist and a mom to two amazing little ones. So read on for some fairly simple but effective ways for teaching your baby to talk. These are strategies you can use for your three-day-old, three-month-old, or three-year-old!
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Why Does Teaching Your Baby to Talk Even Matter?
There are some super obvious benefits to teaching your baby to talk, but I bet there are a few benefits of great speech and language development that you didn’t consider.
Teaching your baby to talk will not only benefit both of you right now, but it will have lasting and long-term effects. Check out the list below for some specifics.
- Your baby will start to understand more directions as you focus on language.
- They can tell you what they want (instead of just crying about it!).
- Your child will also be able to tell you what they don’t want (although this might sometimes be frustrating, it can be really helpful!).
- Once your child learns a few new words, their language will continue to grow and multiply.
- A strong vocabulary as a baby, toddler, and preschooler will help your child across different subjects in school.
- Language (talking and understanding) is how we build social connections.
Check out this article about how language is really a “Super Skill”.
What is Typical Speech Development?
Speech and language development is different for each child. But if you are teaching your baby to talk, there are tons of ways you can give them a boost. Below are some of the standard speech and language milestones that are good to look out for. If you find that your child isn’t meeting these milestones, check out the article below about getting speech therapy.
- By age 1 a child should be able to say their first word
- By 1 1/2 they should be using 20-50 words
- By 2 years old they should have 200-500 words
- Understanding language (receptive language) will develop before talking (expressive language)
Related Article: Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy? Related Article: Differences Between Receptive and Expressive Language
6 Best Tips for Teaching Your Baby to Talk
1. Narrate everything you are doing
I mean it! As you go through your day, talk to your child about WHATEVER you are doing. If you are in the grocery store with your child talk in detail about the bananas you just picked up. You can start simple and narrate by saying, “Now I’m picking up the bananas”. But expert-level narration goes something like this: “Now I’m picking up the long, yellow bananas and putting them in the cart. They will be so yummy to eat!”
Your kid is a SPONGE! So the more language you use, the more they will pick up on. Now, you may not see it right away, but it will pay off.
At first, you will feel like you are a crazy person, but after a while, it becomes normal (for you, not necessarily the other patrons in the grocery store who still might give you the side-eye every time you do this! But alas, it’s for the kids.)
The reason why this is MORE effective than flashcards and your kid listening to Mozart is that it is contextualized. The language you are using is tied to what’s happening right in front of them. Baby brains are ridiculously amazing machines that are constantly taking in new information and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist (or in this case a neurologist) to tap into their genius!
2. Read books (and repeat them)
This one is probably obvious, but it bears mentioning. You’ve heard this before, and that’s because IT WORKS! Reading books is one of the best ways you can help your little ones learn new words. PLUS, exposure to books early on (and I mean early….as soon as you’re home from the hospital) may just lead to your child being a book lover, and there are a whole bunch of reasons why that’s the best.
Another one of my favorite things about reading a variety of books is that kids can access other worlds just by opening up a book. You can read a whole bunch of books about the ocean and sea life even when you live in the middle of nowhere (yep, that’s me alright).
AND, the pictures in the book offer your kids a chance to show you some of the skills before they have the words. (In nerd speak, we call it “receptive language”, but it just means what your child understands.) So even if your little sweetie can’t say “doggy” yet, you might be surprised that they can point it out. Go on, give it a try! (And if they can’t do it today, read the book a few more times, pointing out the dog, and try again in a few weeks.)
Here are a few of my favorite books to get you started: “Be Kind” by Pat Zietlow Miller, “Peek a Who” by Nina Laden, and “Going On a Bear Hunt” by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen. Those are just a few, but there are SO MANY MORE I’d like to recommend.
Okaaaay obviously I could go on about books for about 10 more pages, but this is supposed to be a list of DIFFERENT ways to help your kids learn language, so I’ll try to move on. But if you want to learn about how to pick the best books for your child, check out my post here.
3. Sing songs
Singing songs is another way that might make you feel a little crazy, but it’s also crazy beneficial! This is where you can put your own spin on things (or not). You can rely on the good old classics like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus”, or you can go rogue and make up your own songs. It’s really whatever you’re into!
One of the biggest benefits when pairing songs with actions is that children can start participating BEFORE they have the words. Using those same actions over and over again for the same words serves as a building block for the vocabulary in the song.
If your kids aren’t totally into it (or if you are doing this with your infant who has no control yet over those precious little hands and fingers) you can help your child make the actions.
4. Give your child time to respond, even if they aren’t talking yet
As you start feeling a little less crazy and a little more confident in talking to your children throughout the whole day, don’t forget to give them a chance to talk back. (No, I don’t mean in the sassy teenager way…not yet anyway.)
This expectant wait time will help them recognize that it takes two to talk. Even if they just give you a little coo, that’s something. This will allow them to begin to understand the basics of back-and-forth conversation.
So ask your kid questions, even if you know they can’t respond, and then wait. One of these days they might surprise you! It might start as a sweet little coo, and morph into an almost word, and before you know it they will actually answer for real. It’s magical when it happens!
5. Imitate your child
Sounds strange, I know, but trust me. Start by setting aside some time when your little one is awake and in a good mood. If they put one of their arms up, you put one of your arms up. If they scrunch their nose, you scrunch your nose. If they make a silly sound, give it right back to them.
This helps them to understand that what they do and say can affect what you do and say. And that MATTERS! Words and actions have the power to get them what they want, and when they make that connection, they will want to get busy telling you what to do! (And that’s a whole different kind of problem.)
6. Use baby sign language
Using baby sign has been on the rise in recent years, and with good reason! Baby sign language is a great way to help your child learn to communicate before they start to use words.
One of the advantages of sign language is how you can basically make your child produce the sign by using your hands to shape their sweet little fingers into the desired shape. (This is especially helpful if they are struggling to use words on their own.)
Once they get the hang of it and realize that when they use a sign they get what they want, they’ll do it on their own. It’s so mind-blowing when your kid finally uses a sign on their own! Check out my post here on how to get started using baby sign language.
I think it’s safe to say that every parent loves hearing their child’s first words. It’s amazing when the little one you love so much finally starts to talk! There are several ways you can help your sweet one get that first word, or grow their vocabulary from where it currently is. Hopefully, you picked up some new tips and tricks on helping your little one learn to talk.
Comment below with any questions you have. I’d also love to hear any success stories!