You’re driving down the road when you hear it—your baby starts cooing in the back seat. They may be gazing out the window or simply be fascinated with whatever colorful toy has caught their attention, but something has caused them to feel the need to vocalize. Babbling is a phase of early education every baby experiences as words begin to take on meaning. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the early learning opportunities it presents and strategies for encouraging babbling as your baby launches into language learning.
What to Expect from Babbling:
Babies understand more than they can say.
Once babies start trying to talk, they have a lot to say but can’t always express those thoughts. Understanding concepts is a lot easier than voicing them. Linking meaning to words, however, is a big milestone for babies and usually takes place between eight and twelve months.
A baby’s understanding of a word may vary from yours.
When you say dog, your baby may only associate it with the fuzzy German Shepherd running around in the backyard. First word understandings are often only tied to a specific object. It’s important to use the word in several different situations, labeling and comparing objects with the same name.
Baby babblings will begin to vary.
You should notice babbles begin to vary and take on meaning as babies learn to add inflections and intonations in his or her speech. This is a good thing! You can encourage the frequency of those babbles through replying with words and smiles of your own.
Babbling is a way for babies to initiate conversation.
Even though they’re not using words, when babies combine words and gestures, whether it’s grabbing your leg or reaching for a cup, they are looking to you to engage in conversation. Be sure you’re responding in kind!
Communication Tips for Encouraging Early Language Skills:
- Exaggerate actions and label and describe objects as your child focuses on them.
- Use language to give your play and daily routines structure and meaning from which the child can learn. Talk more now that the child is starting to communicate more. Good labeling and attentive, language-rich conversations are even more important than before.
- Reinforce turn taking and the back-and-forth of daily conversation.
- Assume that the baby’s babbling refers to the thing he or she is looking at, touching, or playing with. Label that object.
- Use books that can be chewed on and have flaps so that the child can understand that things do not vanish when out of sight.
Tips for Reading to Your Baby:
- Reading fosters a baby’s understanding of cause and fact, fine and gross motor skills, listening skills, object permanence, and understanding of words.
- Encourage your baby to follow your pointing or gaze.
- Take turns with your baby as you repeat words in the book. Reading to them is not so much important as allowing them to vocalize what is being read.
- Help him or her with understanding first words by also pointing that word out in different forms. (Ex. A dog in the book, the dog outside, a dog on the computer screen.)
- What you should look for when reading:
- Does the baby enjoy reading books with you?
- Does the baby follow your gaze or pointing?
- Does the baby babble when looking at pictures?
- Does the baby try to direct your attention to things of interest?
- Does the baby shift his or her gaze between you and things in the book?
At the end of the day, babbling is a good thing and an indicator that your child is on their way to becoming a regular motor mouth! The best way to encourage babbles to develop into words is by responding to those nonsensical conversations with patient responses and reading to your baby as you both engage in active dialogues.
For even more activities for encouraging early literacy in your baby, don’t miss Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.
Have early language learning tips to share? Feel free to comment below or post on our Facebook page!
Related Resource: 3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills