Help develop your child’s language skills

Published in Rehabilitation Services, For the Health of It Author: Kristine Hassebrock, MS, Speech Language Pathologist

Like a sense of humor, language is caught — not taught. You don’t directly teach your baby to speak but here are some ways to foster language skills and development:

  • Play word games. Word games teach your baby that language is fun and stimulate baby’s developing memory. One of our favorites is:
    Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear (draw a circle around baby’s tummy with your finger)
    One step, two steps (walk your finger from his belly button to his neck)
    Tickle you under there! (tickle baby under the chin)
  • Give cues. Cue words are words or phrases that trigger a response from baby because of a pattern of sounds previously heard. For instance, if you play the teddy bear word game frequently, your baby will start giggling just when you say “tickle.” Playing word games and watching your baby’s response to certain cue words lets you know how your baby’s memory and language skills are developing.
  • Associate words with objects. During this stage, watch your baby begin to associate words with the most important objects in his environment. When reading to your baby, connect persons and objects in a book with those in his environment. Say “see cat” as you point toward a cat in a book.
  • Table talk. Watch your baby when you gather with friends and family. Notice how your baby follows the discussion, turning his/her head from speaker to speaker and learning a valuable language art — listening. Listening is the first step in developing language skills.
  • Narrate your life together. As you go about your day with baby, talk out loud about everything. Label every object, body part and activity that you do together. The constant input of words paired with experiences will imprint on the language skills center in your baby’s mind.