By Vicki Thrasher Cronin
Licensed Parent Educator, Pre-K Teacher
Cooing, Babbling and First Words
Woven into mundane routines, schedules and fussy moments is the stream of baby offerings of joy. Within weeks of birth your baby is, yes, cooing at you! Starry-eyed and smiling, there are more and more frequent moments of what you just know are your baby’s efforts to communicate with you. And, you are right! By the end of three months, coos have turned into babbling! The Mayo Clinic website has a very helpful tool for parents about speech and language development for babies birth to 24 months. Take a moment to visit the site and get a feel for what your baby is doing right now, as well as a sense about what is coming next. These early milestones of speech and language development are very important; let your doctor know if you have any concerns about your baby’s progression through these early months.
What can parents do, you might wonder, to help ensure that their baby will accomplish these speech and language milestones? Coo, babble, talk, sing, read and rhyme! Babies arrive wired to be able to learn the language of their parents. Wherever that is in the world, your baby is born ready to learn all of the sounds and nuances of your language, or languages! In order to learn language babies must hear the sounds of the language over and over and over (and over), and they must hear it sound by sound by sound. Language is constructed with many tiny little sounds, called phonemes, that make up vowel sounds that hook up to sounds called consonants, and as those sounds come together, they make up words. Words, of course, get meaning through usage and experience, and words put together make sentences and sentences put together make paragraphs and stories!
Parentese, the act of softening your voice and using a higher pitch, is what parents naturally begin to do as soon as they greet their newborn. Parents break down complicated sentences into a few words and add a singsong rhythm to their speech. Your baby’s locked-in gaze encourages you to continue this singsong progression of words; and then one day, at about 6 months, you find you are just reading to your baby. It is when your baby begins to point to pictures in the books and at objects in the house that you will know that your baby is an emergent talker and reader!
From the first moment you lay eyes on your baby, you are the language development coach. You cannot talk too much to your baby. When you parrot the sounds, intonations and facial expressions of your baby, you will be rewarded with your baby’s repeat performance! Take opportunities riding in the car, shopping or walking to sing, rhyme and talk with your baby. Your baby is learning vocabulary and the sounds necessary to say those words. You simply can’t talk too much!