Blossoming Babblers: Encouraging Baby’s Emerging Verbal Communication Skills
Babies from 6-12 months are rapidly learning new skills across all areas of development. This is a wonderful time to interact with baby in meaningful ways that encourage their blossoming communication skills.
Baby’s emerging babbling during this stage provides great opportunities to practice the back-and-forth dynamics of a conversation. Engaging in reciprocal conversation is important from the start. Narrating to baby about the world around them is great, but encouraging them to communicate WITH you (whether its grunts, babbling, word approximations, sign, etc.) builds an important foundation for conversational skills.
Conversation topics are everywhere and can range from what you & baby are experiencing, to how baby is feeling, to the way their senses perceive the environment around them.
Here are a few quick and fun language building activities to try with your baby:
Imaginary Ball Toss:
- Pretend you are tossing an imaginary ball back and forth and each catch is your turn to talk. Baby may not talk on his/her turn, but it important to leave space for them anyway.
- You can ask them open ended questions (“what are you going to say?” or “what do you see?”) to get the “ball” rolling.
- This helps them learn about the structure of conversation and provides them with a foundation that sets them up to be a great conversationalist when they are a little older.
- ASK baby questions about the world around them and what they are experiencing (e.g. “what do you hear?”) and then PAUSE to prime baby’s brain for the structure of conversation and let them feel heard. They likely won’t respond at first, so you can MODEL what they might say (e.g “The dog is barking!”) or model a sign. If you are using baby sign language, you could also model the sign for the word.
- As verbal communication emerges and baby begins to respond to questions with cooing, babbling, and eventually words, switch to: “ASK-PAUSE-RECAST-EXPAND.” ASK baby a question, PAUSE for their response and here’s where it switches up when they communicated verbally: RECAST what they seem to be saying and EXPAND on it (e.g. if they respond with “dodo!” you could say, “yes, the dog is barking!”). You said the word they used and added more language to model a short phrase.
Language Building Benefits of these activities:
- Builds important neural pathways in brain that support language development, receptive language (listening skills), expressive language (talking skills) and social language skills.
- Encourages bonding, communication, and imitation skills.
- Teaches about the structure of conversation.
- Supports articulation development (speech sounds).
- Provides a language model.
- Encourages communication.
Alison Edelstein is a mama of two sweet girls, a Speech Language Pathologist and creator of Chirpy Chatterbox, which provides tips on fostering speech and language development and parenting through music, laughter, and play.
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