This blog post is all about language and communication development in babies and toddlers which is so exciting because it is at the heart of why we do what we do at Adventure Babies sensory storytelling adventures. In this post we think more about what language and communication development actually is, why language development is important and what you can do as a parent to optimise this language and communication development.
What is language and communication development in babies and toddlers?
As humans we are blessed to be able to communicate through the use of individual sounds which build into an intricate way of communicating. Regardless of the language there is a natural sequence that always happens. Babies start with listening and identifying individual sounds before moving on to speaking. Speaking will start with individual sounds and progress to words and sentences. After this reading can be learned and after that writing links symbols to the sounds and words that children already know. These stages are all are essential for effective language acquisition. If we can hear the sounds, then we can repeat the sounds. This process of development begins from before day 1 with babies listening to their mother talking or reading whilst still in the womb!
Why is language and communication development important?
When a baby is acquiring language, they are using the whole of their brain to make mental connections and their whole brain is growing, this language is becoming part of their brain’s foundation during this process of absorbing. From birth to 3 years old babies and toddlers are making so many connections within their brain and language is so important because it is a huge foundation for how they will be able to learn in the future. Once babies get to 3 they go through a process called pruning, which is where they lose the mental connections, or synapses, that are not being used. Therefore, you have endless capability from birth to 3 years old as far as language! This is why it is so important to talk and read to your babies as much as possible within this time frame. There is a window of opportunity to give them a foundation that will set them up for success later on. This language is a key foundation for all learning. Children learn to read and then read to learn therefore helping children fall in love with books and reading is so important for their all-round and future development.
How can we optimise this?
You need to be at ease and have a loving environment for growth lovingly talk, read and sing to your baby. During the first days and weeks of life hearing language spoken, read and sung as often as possible. We can enhance this development by speaking using normal adult language which teaches vocabulary right from the start. Use afflictions to make your voice interesting to a baby but don’t use too many baby terms. Have as many adults as possible read to babies so that they hear different voices, accents and intonations. In addition to, this reading needs to be done with emotion and passion. Use different voices for the characters in a book and make sure the two characters talking have different voices. Babies are also really attracted to the rhythmic and rhyming type of books and often choose these again and again so having a selection of poetry books is a great tip.
Commentating about what is happening around you and your baby all the time will really help their language and communication development, for example, ‘Oohhh look at the green van coming along the road.” This gives babies new vocabulary and if giving them space to respond teaches the structure of a conversation and lets them know that they are expected to participate, modelling back to them their response allows them to hear the noise they made and make adjustments.
Listening to music and singing to your baby will support their language and communication development. Singing lullaby’s and songs with actions are brilliant for language acquisition, they are also a lot of fun for babies and toddlers. A certain type of music has also been recommended to help with development, enjoying classical music with your baby can be positive and very beneficial. It is at a certain vibration which is thought to be at a perfect harmony for development by some experts!
Let your child express themselves as much times as possible and give them as many chances to speak as possible. Encourage them to answer by leaving a pause for them and repeating back what sounds they make or say. Model correct speech and repeat anything that the child has said wrong rather that identifying that your child has made a mistake so as to encourage them in a positive way.
Less screen time is also recommended for babies because it is impossible for babies to learn language through the TV. As children get older this does change but when thinking about babies, they need the back-and-forth interaction, the serve and return experiences that real conversation offers, or by you talking to them and giving space for them to contribute by making sounds, or by the way our puppets tell stories at Adventure Babies. These are the best ways to enhance their language development.
Giving your baby a sensory basket with different items such as a variety of spoons from the kitchen drawer. This will give them something to play with, to touch and manipulate but if you talk to the m about the spoons, which ones are big or small or shiny or wooden you are giving your baby new language too and a chance to practice their back-and-forth communication.
The Top Tip for language and communication development…
however for language acquisition from experts is to read to your child! We would suggest coming along to Adventure Babies where you will have one of our highly trained baby development experts telling a story using all of the tips above to engage your baby, model to you a great way to read to your child and get to take part in so many activities that support their development in a nurturing and supportive environment where you can make other parent friends in your area!