Your child’s communication, language and literacy skills develop at a fast pace in the early years, especially in the first two years of life. While talking comes a little later, your baby communicates with you through her coos, expressions, gestures, smiles and even cries.
Different cries can mean different things. Your baby could be saying “I am hungry”, “I want to be picked up” or even “My diaper is wet”. She loves being with you and listening to your voice when you engage her in conversations as you change her diaper, feed her, bathe her and during story times.
As your baby grows older, at around 4 to 6 months, she starts to respond to different intonations and can even imitate some of these. Your baby will be babbling and may even repeat sounds.
By around 10 to 12 months, she begins to understand that objects have names and may start saying a few words. You will find that your baby is starting to understand simple sentences and can even follow simple directions.
By the time your child is two, you will notice many changes in the way she communicates, the language she uses and in her literacy behaviours. She will be chattering and communicating her needs, wants and preferences through words. She will sing songs and recite rhymes. Include visits to the library, parks and museums to satiate her curiosity!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Play the imitation game! Help your baby link words to objects and actions by playing a simple imitation game! For example, shake a rattle and sing "Shake the rattle, baby, shake it!" Hand her a rattle so she can imitate you as you sing and shake the rattle! Play this game with other routine activities. For instance, at dressing up and bath time, you can say "Brush your hair baby, brush it," as you brush her hair.
Help your child model languages. Children need to hear the language that they can model. Talk to your children about things around them; things that interest them and even during meal times. Outings such as a visit to the park or place of interest could also spark ideas for sharing and conversation.
~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre
Talk through daily routines. Adding words to daily routines and events will help develop your child's communication and language skills. More importantly, this will help expand his vocabulary. Your child will begin to understand that words have meanings and convey ideas and feelings.
Have face-to-face interactions. Your baby loves looking at your expressions when you talk. Use every chance to engage her face-to-face. Be sensitive to your baby’s cues. Once she starts looking away, switch to another activity as she is telling you enough. Young children have short attention spans. Using eye contact helps her practise prolonged attention. Face-to-face interactions allow your child to observe how we show emotions and communicate.
Create a photo montage. On your next shopping trip or outing with your child, take photographs. The combination of several photographs can be used to talk about and recall different aspects of the experiences. This activity builds your child’s vocabulary as she begins to relate to familiar pictures or scenes and link them to words.
Make a grocery list. Draw up the list with your child. Let him suggest some items for the list. For example, ask him what he would like to buy for breakfast. Let him see how you write the letters. This can help your child increase alphabetical awareness, link words to objects and learn about the meaning of print.
Ask questions. This will set your child thinking. Even if she does not answer, pause a moment or two before you respond. This is a great way to encourage conversations with your child as you interact with her everyday. Tell her about your day and ask how was hers. She will enjoy having small talks with you.
Keep sentences short. Use brief sentences, but do not be afraid to use lots of different words. The more words your child is exposed to, the better. This will help your child develop early literacy through listening and your interactions with him.
Make Small Talk. Your baby or toddler is listening. Make use of every opportunity you get to talk to her. Point out objects and name them. Speak slowly and use a higher-pitched voice as this helps your child to hear the sounds of the letters better.
Read daily! Set aside a period each day for story-time with your child. You may skip pages or simply focus on a character as your child's attention span may vary from less than a minute to two to three minutes at this age.
Recite and sing rhymes and songs with actions. Be animated and use different voices like high and low pitches to engage your child’s attention. Your playful voice will capture her interest.
Engage in finger play. Rhymes like ‘Incy-wincy Spider” and “10 Little Fingers” have fun and engaging finger play actions which you can do with your baby. If your child is older, she can imitate your actions.
Make routine tasks engaging and stimulating. Have a conversation with your child during caregiving times, such as diaper-changing, showering and feeding. Describe your actions and tell your child what you are doing. For example, you can talk about the textures and colours of the food on her plate.
Puppets are interesting. Playing with puppets can help enhance your child’s language development. Use the puppet to recite a rhyme or a chant, and encourage your child to do the same.
Share a book. Talk about the pictures, characters and colours. Ask your toddler about her favourite characters or books.