For many parents, a child’s first word is a much-anticipated milestone. As children learn to talk, parents may feel closer to their babies and better equipped to communicate with them. According to a new study, parents who want to help their children learn to talk should listen and respond to their baby’s babbling.
Learning to Talk Through Babbling
The study, sponsored by the University of Iowa and Indiana University, looked at interactions between 12 mothers and their babies. Research began when the babies were 8-months old and continued twice a month for 30 minutes at a time for 6 months. Researchers kept notes on how and when the mothers responded to their babies. Mothers who responded to babbling had babies who babbled more frequently. Researchers noted that it was particularly important for parents to respond when the babbling seemed directed toward the parent. Parents who did this had children who increasingly directed more babbling toward the parent.
Babbling is an important precursor to speech, so babies who babble more frequently are closer to talking and may begin saying their first words. Researchers point out that responding to babies’ babbling teaches children how to learn. When parents respond, babies learn that they can communicate, and that babbling is a form of communication.
Other Ways to Help Your Baby Talk
Responding to your baby’s babbles can help him or her learn to speak, but there are many other steps that previous research has shown to be effective. If you want to help your child learn to talk, try some of the following:
- Talk to your baby as much as you can. Try narrating your daily activities, pointing out interesting sights and sounds, and teaching your child the words for favorite objects.
- Read to your baby.
- When your baby makes eye contact or otherwise tries to get your attention, talk to him or her.
- Treat your baby’s attempts at communication as if he or she is speaking. For example, if a child says “da” while the dog is around, say, “That’s right! Dog!” In so doing, you help shape your child’s babbling into real words.
- Sing to your baby.
- Ask your baby questions, even if he or she can’t answer them yet.
- Include your baby in interactions with other people, and encourage family members to talk to and maintain eye contact with your baby.
- Parents, listen next time your baby babbles. (2014, September 11). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827122632.htm
- Tips on learning to talk. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/helping-learn-to-talk.html
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