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How To Teach Your Baby To Talk

Updated on May 8, 2016
Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna wears many hats: writer, mother, crafter... Over the years, she has found what works and what doesn't for herself and her family.

Babies absorb so much information in the first few years of their lives. It is amazing what a huge impact everything you do has on an infant and their development. With infants, it can sometimes be hard to tell what they are really taking in because they cannot yet communicate with words. Teaching a baby to speak is fundamentally important for their development. What they are able to absorb and learn in the very first few years of life will lay the foundation for all of their learning for the rest of their lives. No pressure, right? Relax! Babies are like little sponges. It is easier than it sounds.

Talk to Your Baby

Talk to your baby all the time, and I mean all the time. As you are changing them, tell them exactly what you are doing, step by step, and always speak in a soft, calming voice. Go through each step of everything you do with them. It may seem kind of strange and silly to say, "Now, I am taking off your diaper. I see that you are wet." or, "Look at this nice big bowl of applesauce! Doesn't it look yummy?" But babies respond to it, even if it may be hard to see it at first.

Be sure to talk to them all throughout your day. When you go to the grocery store, point things out to them, tell them what you are buying, and keeping them entertained that way is a lot better than letting them play with your keys or your cell phone. You may get some funny looks from the other shoppers at the store, but who really cares? Talk to them in the car on the way home, or even sing to them. Babies love music!

Watch your baby's responses. When you talk to them, pause, as you would in a normal conversation, and give them time to respond. You know...just like you would if you were talking to an adult. Sometimes they may smile, babble, or giggle, or sometimes they may just make a face or sit there and watch you. This shows them that they can talk back, make noise or a face, or whatever. Either way, you are showing them the patterns of communication that they will use later on in life. It is also important for them to learn that it is just as important for them to talk as it is for you to talk. They will begin to feel that it is important for them to respond. Pretty soon, instead of funny looks from baby, he or she may respond with a coo or babble of their own.

Read

Read to your baby at least once every day. Show them the pictures in the book and point out things in the pictures that go along with the story. Even if you are just reading a baby book of words, point out the picture of the ball, or the cat. They identify with things that they can see. They make the connection between the words that are spoken and the pictures that they can see. Even taking objects that they are familiar with and speaking the name of the object will enhance their vocabulary, and will help them make important connections between words and the world around them.

Reading to your baby doesn't have to be a long process. Babies don't have very long attention spans. It should only be about a five minute activity. Though, it is often difficult to get them to sit still that long. Just pick a book to read to them, and also pick one for them to hold onto, and most likely chew on. Hold the book so both you and baby can see it. Point to the pictures as you name them off, or read the story. Books that also make noise or have fun textures for your baby to play with are also a great idea. It gives the book an added level of interest for when they are just playing with the book, making it a toy as well.

Books for baby should be sturdy board books, vinyl books (bathtub books) or fabric books. Books with paper pages are not good for babies. They will tear them up pretty quickly.

Sign

One more thing that I have used in raising my daughter, as well as my time working in child care, is sign language. Some may see this as a negative step towards teaching a baby to speak, but it only enhances their knowledge and their connection to the world around them. It improves a baby's ability to communicate. Teaching them to sign words like please, thank you, and more, gives them an outlet for communicating when speaking the words is still beyond their grasp. It eliminates some of the frustration babies experience from not being able to communicate their needs.

Being able to communicate their needs is important for learning communication skills, as well as fostering a bond between the child and the caregiver. If the infant feels his or her needs are being met, trust is formed between the child and the caregiver, and the infant learns that through communication, he or she can get what she needs or wants. It is basically a cause-and-effect learning situation.


Concerns

If you have any concerns regarding your child's development, or ability to speak, please, talk to your child's pediatrician. They know you and your child, and they can help figure out if you just have a child that isn't wanting to talk, or if there is a problem that needs to be addressed. They can run tests and talk with you about your concerns.

I knew someone who's son wasn't talking by the time he was 2. She brought him to the doctor, and it turned out his ears were clogged, so that it was hard for him to hear, and therefore, difficult for him to learn to speak. Don't be afraid to talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have regarding your child's development. It is very important that you share those things with your pediatrician.

© 2008 Anna Marie Bowman

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    • profile image

      Lakki 

      6 years ago

      Hii Raj ,

      At the most basic level, here are some things you can do-- Blow bubbles. Make LOTS of animal noises (for some reason animal noises are easier than "real" words.) Teach him modified sign language (for example, pointing to his mouth for "eat"). It takes time, but kids with speech delays can use the motion as a prompt to say the word. SIng "pop Goes the Weasel" a lot and make a big deal out of jumping up on POP. "Pop" is one of the easiest words to say and the action of popping up will act as a prompt. (Be aware that at first he will just be able to do the action-- but that's a start.) Put chocolate or peanut butter on his lips, hold his arms back, and make him lick the sweet stuff off his lips. Encourage a lot of "environmental" words-- Vrrom, buzz, whee, yum, etc. Again, these are usually easier for toddlers than "real" words.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Raj-- If your baby is two and a half years old, and isn't talking at all, not even saying a few recognizable words, I would recommend talking with his doctor. You way want to ask about testing his hearing, or certain tests that can be done for conditions that would impair his speech development. There may be something relatively easy to correct that is inhibiting his speech development. After the issue is identified, he will probably need to work with a speech therapist in order to get back to where he needs to be.

    • profile image

      Raj 

      6 years ago

      My baby boy is two and a half years old and does not talk. He does in the baby language but nothing that we speak. What should I do plz do let know.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      6 years ago from Florida

      New 2011 Mom-- I agree. Being able to communicate is the single most important thing a person can learn. Whether it be a child learning to communicate verbally, or with sign language, or an adult learning a second language to better communicate with people.

    • New 2011 Mom profile image

      New 2011 Mom 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I think any language is good for babies to start to learn. I remember being at a craft show selling things and someone who had to use sign language was trying to talk to me and I had no idea what he was saying. I also live in an area where different languages are spoken and I just think teaching your child those different languages could help them, as well as them helping others in the future. At one time I used to know sign language, but I never got to practice with anyone so I forgot it. I can only imagine how a child would react if they couldn't get their words through to someone because I saw what he was feeling. He was frustrated and I felt so bad for him at the time.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Goyakla--You bring up some great points. Having worked in day care settings in the past, there were several children that spent more time with me and the other teachers than they did their own parents. I agree that this is an issue which bears addressing, but as long as the child is in an environment that fosters loving care, and encourages development, it can only help the child.

      rebekahELLE-- Thank you so much!! Working child care was one of the greatest experiences in my life, and something I would love to do again. I am glad I could inspire you!!!

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 

      6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      I love this hub and what you have communicated. I know some parents rush to have their baby do this or do that before a baby is developmentally ready to do this or that, but you are clearly giving advice on how to communicate. I work with young children from infants-5 yrs., and the infants are a delight. How we communicate with them is much more important than when the baby actually speaks words. They are communicating when they babble, and point and repeat actions they've seen us do. Whoever is caring for the baby needs to speak in complete sentences and use inflection in their voice and respond appropriately to the infants form of communication. A baby's first year is amazing.

      You may have inspired me for one of my up and coming hubs.

      Thanks!

    • Goyakla profile image

      Goyakla 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Babies learn to talk by imitating the people who spend the most time with them. In this day and age more and more children are being looked after by people other than their parents. This means that during their very informative years they are learning to imitate their day care carers. Nobody seems to talk about this. I like your hub and the points you make but would love to see you write more about the things I have brought up here.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      7 years ago from Florida

      jordan-- I would be concerned. I can't speak about his condition, as I don't really know what to tell you. The fact that he can't speak could be a learning disability, or a hearing problem. I would definitely take him to a doctor.

    • profile image

      jordan 

      7 years ago

      My son is almost four now, he still has not grown hair, nor can he speak or understand us.

      I am concerned, and may take him to a doctor. He has almost a full moustache, accomanied with uncommon pubic hair around his genitals.

      I am very confused right now.

      Anyone have any info on this?

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      8 years ago from Florida

      mailxpress-- I used all of these tips with not only the children in my care when I worked child care, but also my own daughter. It really is amazing how much their minds develop during those early years.

    • mailxpress profile image

      Michelle Cesare 

      8 years ago from New York

      HI,

      I don't have children but I do agree while speaking to them, give them a chance to respond in their own way. A few seconds of pause gives them an opportunity to react. The sign language is so clever. Teaching some basics I'm sure can help a child communicate and educate. Interesting informative Hub yet again.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      8 years ago from Florida

      thiaga-- Best of luck to you.

    • profile image

      thiaga 

      8 years ago

      my son had 2yr old totally he knows 5 to 10 words i feel very sad how i guide my baby to talk

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      9 years ago from Florida

      j parent-- Thank you for that information.

    • profile image

      j parent 

      9 years ago

      There's a great book that provides wonderful easy ways to teach a baby how to speak early:

      The Talking Baby: Simple Tricks And Techniques To Encourage Your Baby To Speak Sooner

      found it at www.thetalkingbaby.com

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