Here Are Bonding Activities with Mom and Dad that Can Help Little Ones Learn to Talk
One thing you should do consistently: just keep talking!
Talking to your infant constantly is the best way to boost their language skills. According to research published in the journal Infancy, talking to your little one as if they understand the words coming out of your mouth benefits them more than simply talking at them as if you were reciting a monologue.
While it’s never too early to start chatting with your little one, their response time will vary. It may seem to take forever, but hearing those first few syllables is worth the wait!
When does your little one start talking?
Generally, cooing and babbling start at 4 months; make speech-like sounds and repeat what you say by 6 months; experiment with their own sounds by 9 months, and say their first words around 12 months.
If your little one’s timelines are different, don’t fret. More importantly, try not to compare their vocabulary with that of other kids their age. Remember, children develop at their own pace.
Could my little one be a late talker?
Late speech usually emerges in twins, children who were born underweight or premature, and those who have hearing problems or a family history of speech delays. Research also shows that boys tend to produce words and sentences a bit later than girls. Some perfectly normal children start forming words as late as 18 months, whereas others turn into chatterboxes by 7 months.
As long as your little one is showing signs of progress and engages with you—whether verbally or nonverbally—late-blooming speech isn’t always a cause for concern.
When should you be worried?
No one knows your little one more than you do, so trust your instincts. If they aren’t babbling, making eye contact, using gestures to communicate, or uttering simple words like “ma-ma” or “da-da” by 15 months, it’s best to consult your pediatrician.
What can you do to encourage your child to talk more?
Here are some fun ways to bond while planting the seeds of future conversations with your child:
1. Jam along to music
Children love bouncing to a lively tune. Play nursery rhymes or songs that the whole family can sing and dance to. Songs—particularly ones with simple and catchy rhythms—help kids make sounds, talk, and remember new words.
Get ready to listen to the songs you pick on repeat. Repetition (as maddening as it may be for adults) is both exciting and comforting for your little one. It strengthens their understanding of the world around them and helps them attach meaning to the sounds they hear.
Pro tip: pick a song that you will enjoy listening to all day, every day.
2. Play pretend phone call
Hold up a phone or toy and pretend to make a call in front of your child. Mention your their name, and say “Hello, it’s mommy/daddy!” Ask questions, make sounds, and see if they answer. When they do, continue the conversation and show them you’re listening and paying attention.
This teaches them the importance of both talking and listening. Plus, playing pretend fosters creativity and is a good lesson in navigating the world around them.
3. Take a walk
Whether it’s around the neighborhood or on a field trip to the zoo, a leisurely walk with your child opens their eyes to the world. No matter the location, the dynamic nature of this activity gives you many different things to talk about. Point out the color and number of things you pass (“Look, three small birds!), tell them where you’re going next (“We’re on our way to see the neighbor’s puppy”), and teach them sounds (“The puppy says woof-woof!”).
Besides boosting your child’s brain and helping them process language, this is a great way to increase your daily step count.
4. Read to your little one
Storytime educates and entertains your child. It sets the foundation for them to learn words, copy sounds, and recognize pictures at an early age. It becomes entertaining when you get into character. Don’t be afraid to make silly faces, change your voice, or make animal sounds! Showing a variety of emotions and expressions is crucial to your child’s social and emotional development.
Reading to your child is a wonderful bonding experience that you can carry on until your little one gets older. It fosters a love for books, which, studies say, strengthens the brain and makes us more empathetic.
5. Narrate everyday situations
Daily activities such as mealtime, bathtime, and bedtime offer a wealth of opportunities to add to your little one’s word bank. Channel your inner commentator and give them a play-by-play of what you’re having for breakfast, the temperature of their bath water, or even the color of their bedsheets. Be as descriptive as possible! This will help them make sense of the things around them.
As they get older, involve them in the narrative. Ask questions that allow them to respond verbally or through pointing and gestures. For example: “Where’s your blankie?”
Boosting the language skills of your child is a definite possibility by following some of our suggestions above. However, always keep in mind that you need to be patient with them and that these activities are not just to accelerate the talking stage of your little one. These activities are also meant to be bonding moments with your child.
• Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones. Stanford Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=age-appropriate-s…
• American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Activities to encourage speech and language development. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/activities-to-encourage-…
• American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Late blooming or language problem? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/late-blooming-or-language-…
• Kathleen M. Reilly January 25, 2010. (n.d.). 10 Ways To Boost Baby's language development. Parents. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.parents.com/baby/development/talking/signs-of-talking/?slid…
• Language delay. Raising Children Network. (2020, March 25). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/development/language-development/…
• Lewis, K. N. (Ed.). (2019, August). Reading books to babies (for parents). KidsHealth. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/reading-babies.html
• Pietro, M. A. D. (2017, August 4). Language delay: Types, symptoms, and causes. Healthline. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/language-delay#causes
• Romm, C. (2018, April 20). Pretending to understand what babies say can make them smarter. The Atlantic. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/pretending-to-unders…
About The Writer
Franch Baja Bustamante
Franch Baja Bustamante has a toddler who is rapidly learning about the world. Her goal is to continue to foster his curiosity, while making sure he doesn’t pluck out all the plants from her garden.
While he sleeps, Franch works as a freelance writer, editor, and content manager for brands and websites. She has created and produced content for Rockwell Land Retail, Nestle Philippines, DTI-CITEM, Smart Parenting, Spot.ph, and other titles under Summit Media.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.
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