Although your baby won’t be able to start verbalising her thoughts until she’s around 7 to 12 months, she might start uttering those “ooh”s and “ah”s you’ve been waiting to hear. The activities and choices you make from her birth can put her on the right track in terms of baby development, and give her the tools she needs to achieve her speech development. Making just a few small adjustments to your daily routine can make a big difference. Bear these in mind, and you’ll be well on the way to helping your baby form her first words.
Make everything a story
Even before your baby can start speaking on her own, she will recognise more language than you can imagine. Between the ages of 8 and 12 months, you might notice that she seems to understand what you say. For example, when you mention that “dada” is coming home, your baby might become noticeably more excited. Or if you tell your baby that you’re about to go outside together, she might squeal or laugh with delight.
That’s why it’s so important to make everything a conversation with your baby: You’ll help increase her understanding of the world around her. When you’re making dinner, tell her what ingredients you’re using. When you're out on a walk, explain all the animals you see or types of shops you’re passing. Be simple and specific in the words you use, and be consistent. If your family dog is a puppy today, don’t call him a pup tomorrow.
Pick the right books
You can’t go wrong with any kind of book, really, but picture books are especially good when it comes to helping your baby with her speech development. Use picture books as a way to reinforce the fact that everything has a name. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same objects, names, and photos over and over again.
Make it a two-way conversation
Even if your baby is only in the very beginning stages of her speech development and all she can manage is a few gurgles every now and then, be sure to take the time to give her an opportunity to join in the conversation. Ask questions and wait for her to respond. Even a seemingly meaningless exchange between you and your baby is teaching her that it takes two people to communicate and that you’re happy for her be part of the conversation.
Be careful with baby talk
You’ll probably soon start to notice that your baby chat takes on a form of its own. Infant-directed speech, as it’s sometimes called, is when a parent speaks to a baby in simple sentences, normally with a higher pitched voice and exaggerated intonation.
Although it has been shown that this kind of speech can help infants learn to speak, try not to get too carried away. Simple, exaggerated sentences are fine but try to avoid repeating “incorrect”, nonsense words that your baby might use while she’s in the middle of her speech development. Instead, repeat the word back to her correctly, and eventually she’ll pick up on the difference.
If you keep up these daily conversations with your baby, you just might be surprised by how quickly her speech develops.