Great Ideas! 7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Language Skills

08/22/2013 at 11:00 AM ET

How to Build Your Child's Language Skills Danielle Brooks Baby Nuggets Baby League
Getty

Language development is an amazing feat to watch your baby take on.

And since that part of the brain is rapidly forming from birth till 3 years of age, it’s critical for parents to try influence their child as much as possible during that window of time.

Basically, what you say and how you respond to your little one can really lay the foundation for the rest of their life.

Feeling overwhelmed? We get it — so we asked clinical therapist and Baby League‘s Baby Nuggets host, Danielle Brooks, to share her tips to help maximize your baby’s verbal and cognitive skills.

Not only has she tested them out on her two older kids, she plans on practicing them again when her third little baby who arrives soon. Check them out below.

Take turns with the babble. This is a great way to teach your baby how to have a conversation. By responding to them, their little brains begin to recognize a back and forth pattern and ultimately learn that the sounds they make will gain your attention. For example when your baby coos, say something like “Oh really. Can you tell me more?”

A recent study found that 4-month-olds whose parents really engaged with them verbally demonstrated greater cognitive ability by the time they turned 2-years-old. Incredible … right? So don’t hold back: Be interested, engaged, and responsive to your baby’s babbling.

Narrate all your activities. It might seem silly to explain an everyday activity (changing their diaper, perhaps) step by step, but in fact you are expanding your tot’s receptive language (what they understand). Our receptive language is always at a higher level then our productive language (what we can speak) so it’s important do this as early as possible.

Make sure your lips are visible when you’re talking. Babies learn to speak by engaging in Mouth Sound Mapping. You may notice that your baby intensely stares at the movement of your lips. They are mapping the shape of your mouth with the sound you make into their brain to lay the foundation for creating productive language.

Avoid baby words. It’s so tempting, but using adorable little words to label objects is only confusing. When my daughter would say, “Kiki” for milk we had to resist the urge to say, “Yes, Here you go. Here is your Kiki.” Instead, we said, “I hear you asking for your milk. Your milk is right here in your sippy cup.” Not only would we offer the correct name of the object but also would repeat it multiple times to help her brain attach onto the word.

How to Build Your Child's Language Skills Danielle Brooks Baby Nuggets Baby League
Getty

Respond to their pointing. When your baby points to an object they want to know its name. This gesture is their way of asking a question, “Hey Mom what is that on the counter top?” A fantastic response to the pointing can be, “Yes I see you asking me about what that is on the countertop. This is a book (hold it up for the baby). Look you can open and close the book.”

Again, use the object name multiple times to help it sink in. Plus your reaction validates and encourages their curiosity to learn more object names.

Try baby sign language. Parents often ask me what the most valuable language building tool is and without hesitation I reply: baby sign language. Not only is it proven to reduce frustration, it connects with the same part of the brain that language comes out of. The myth that baby sign language slows down the baby’s language development is actually completely false!

I just suggest always using the verbal words to go along with the baby sign. And to only introduce a few signs at a time. Be patient — it takes time for little ones to get it but once they do, it will help you avoid lots of tantrums.

Read to your baby every day. Reading promotes cognitive and language development. And it specifically helps with speech, generating words, comprehension, and the ability to write.

You can start the day you bring your newborn baby home. Cuddle while you read, be expressive, and pick a variety of books. The sounds and words they hear when you read to them continues to lay a solid foundation in your baby’s brain for language development.

How to Build Your Child's Language Skills Danielle Brooks Baby Nuggets Baby League
Getty

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment

PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 0 comments

advertisement

From Our Partners

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters