As you already know, language development begins at birth which is why we are always told as parents how important it is to talk to our baby constantly. Talk to them about what you are doing, talk to them about what they are doing, sing lots of songs, and read lots of books. The theme from the very beginning is just constant exposure to language. The two main goals for language development for infants are in building an awareness of sound and vocabulary development. We not only want our baby to hear us sing, read, and talk to them, but we also want our baby to see us speaking. It is important for your child to watch your mouth as you speak so they can see how your mouth and your lips move to create the sound.
Here are some facts about language development
- Babies learn language at different rates.
- Babies learn language in different ways-what works for one baby may not work for another.
- Language development does not follow a linear path. Some babies will coo, some will grunt. Your baby may babble constantly or maybe is a really good listener. Some babies will say their first word by 7 months and others might not until closer to their second birthday. Every baby is learning at their own rate.
Here are a variety of language building and exposing activities to do with your little one. A great way to do these activities is to make it the theme for the week. Clear the book shelves and toy shelves. Stock them with only animal related books and toys. Keep the focus on animal sounds. Exposure and repetition are important for learning and retaining.
- Toy animals
- Animal books
- Animal Puzzles
- Songs: Music is a great way to expose your child to language and different sounds. Music is filled with rhymes, different tones, and inflections. These are all important for your child to be exposed too! As you sing these songs, don’t forget to hold up the animals that are in the songs. This helps build your little one’s vocabulary as well.
For little ones still experimenting with sounds, you can immerse them more directly with animal sounds by changing the words to familiar songs with animal sounds. For example, sing ba-ba instead of the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to teach your little one what a sheep says. I did this when teaching Riley to say Mama. I constantly said Mama and sang mama until one day she started saying mama.
For children who are speaking, when singing familiar songs such as Old MacDonald, have your little one fill in the sounds of the animals. Simply pausing before saying a word in familiar songs gives your child the invitation to fill in the missing word on their own and join you in singing the song.
- Books: Reading books every day is important. Inviting your little one to turn pages is also important. It is okay to read books without reading the words. Instead, point out what is in the pictures. Ask your child to point out different animals in the pictures-where is the cow? As you point out the different animals, don’t forget to tell your little one what they say. Ask your little one to say it as well. “What does the cow say? (pause)…. Mooo! Can you say Mooo? (pause) Mooo” When you see different animals in the book, match the picture of the animal with the toy of the animal if you have it. Always reinforcing the name of the animal and their sound. Let your child watch your mouth as you say each sound. This helps them to learn how to form the sound themselves.
- Animal Toys: Play with the animals- telling your child what animal it is and what its sound is. If you don’t know the sound (I’m not sure what sound a bunny makes), then say how the animal moves instead. Play a game with your little one by putting only two or three animals in front of them. Ask them where a specific animal is-where is the cow or which animal says moo? Let them pick that animal out of the group. Praise them for the ones they get correct! If they pick the wrong animal, simply name that animal and its sound. Then point to the correct animal, say the animal name and its sound. You could also line the animals in a row and practice saying the different animal sounds in order.
- Animal Puzzles: The idea of this week is constant exposure to animal sounds. As your child interacts with the puzzles (which might just mean they pull all the pieces off the puzzle), talk about the different animals and their sounds! Match the puzzle piece animal with the matching animal toy or animal in a book. This encourages stronger vocabulary connections.
Tip: For all little ones, no matter if they are speaking or not, always give them the opportunity to imitate you or fill in the sound before providing the sound. Inviting them to try to say the sounds is important even if they don’t end up saying them. As in all areas of development, we want to constantly encourage, praise, and keep positive interactions!
- Expressive language: You are encouraging your child to speak in each of these activities and to say different animal sounds. The more sounds your child says, the more they are developing their oral muscles.
- Receptive language: The more sounds and words you are saying, the more sounds and words your child is hearing. This helps with their auditory development, awareness of sounds, and their expressive language development.
- Imitation: These activities are meant to encourage your child to imitate your sounds and your mouth movements so make sure they are watching your mouth as you say the different animal sounds and words.
- Social skills: You are encouraging your child to have a conversation with you. You are teaching them how a conversation works. By asking them questions, you are inviting them to join you in a conversation.
Information for this post came from the following resources
- Ages and Stages by Dr. Charles E. Schaefer and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
- The Complete Resource Book for Infants by Pam Schiller