First Words: Help Your Child To Talk

Your baby’s learned to pay attention and to listen. He’s beginning to understand you when you talk to him and during his second year, at some point, he’ll start to use words himself.
 
In this extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk, we look at how he arrives at those very first words. 
If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.   
Speech: infants
Your baby depends on you to keep him alive, warm and comfortable. His first cries are the only way he can communicate with you, and he cries with a sound that you just can’t ignore. You’re right in your instincts to use his cries as a signal that you need to look after him. 
Doctors now know that the stress of prolonged crying encourages the production of the chemical cortisol, as Penelope Leach points out in her book “The Essential First Year – What Babies Need Parents to Know”. It’s true that humans all need cortisol, to help reduce inflammation and encourage the metabolism of some foods, too much in the brain can slow development. 
It doesn’t hurt your baby to cry a little: all babies cry sometimes, but remember that he is communicating with you in the only way he can, and be responsive.
When you feel you need to do something for him, you’re right. That’s what he’s telling you with his cries.
In the early days and weeks, you might notice he uses slightly different cries for a variety of purposes. He may have a hungry cry, for example, that you notice is different from the cry he uses when he’s uncomfortable. By 3 months, he’ll know he can use his voice to tell you when he’s pleased or unhappy; excited or tired, and from now on, you’ll hear plenty of coos, gurgles and shouts.
Speech: listening skills
Remember that second key: listening. He’s been listening all the time: to the things around; to human voices and, most importantly, to your voice. He’s heard your intonation patterns: the tune of your speech as your voice rises and falls. He’s heard your voice rise in a question, get louder when you’re annoyed, become low and soft when you play baby games with him.
Speech: practice
Meanwhile, he enjoys his own noises. “Ga ga” he says, his tongue falling naturally into that position. He likes it, repeats it and finds other sounds that are fun. Soon he starts babbling and he finds that you join in, encouraging all the noises, repeating strings of nonsense back to him. 
Between 6 months and 1 year, he plays often with babbling noises, trying out all the sounds of speech. He doesn’t stick to his native language, but includes sounds he’ll never need to use. Over time, his babbling begins to sound more and more like your speech, even though there are no real words there yet.
His strings of sounds get longer and he joins them together until he produces something that seems just like the intonation patterns of speech. At this point, parents sometimes feel their baby is trying to talk. He is playing with sounds, getting ready to launch himself into speech, and it’s not until he can sequence his sounds with a meaningful word that real speech begins.
Speech: feedback
At some point during this sound play, he hits on a combination of sounds that resemble a word.
“Da,” he says as his father picks him up, “Da-da-da.”
Delighted, his father smiles, cuddles him and repeats the word. What a reward. He tries that again. Every time he makes that combination of sounds, at the right time, you’ll celebrate, repeat it and reinforce it. As his accuracy improves, he gets it right every time, encouraged by your excited feedback. There it is – “daddy”: his first word.
Your child’s first word may be something different. Maybe he says “Mama” first. 
If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, just download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).
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Help Your Child Talk: Attention, Listening and Understanding Checklists

Here’s extract 18 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you’d like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog. Questions you ask may find their way (anonymously) into the new Frequently Asked Questions page. find it by clicking the tap at the top of the page.

If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.
This week is a bit of a recap of some of the things we’ve looked at over the past few weeks. Here’s a very brief set of simple checklists of things to remember with your baby and toddler, covering the first three keys to language skill: attention, listening and understanding. 

Attention skills: babies
  • Make eye contact.
  • Speak gently.
  • Notice which sense your baby is using.
  • Play peep-bo and sing nursery rhymes.
  • Limit the number of toys around him.
  • Let him sleep and be quiet.

Attention skills: toddlers

  • Alternate quiet times with activity.
  • Limit TV and encourage his own activities.
  • Watch for overstimulation and let him relax quietly.
  • Call his name and wait for him to look at you.
  • Get down to his level so he can see you.
  • Keep calm when he gets frustrated.
  • Consider signing with him.
  • Tell bedtime stories.
  • Sing nursery rhymes.
Listening: babies
  • Babble and play cooing games, encouraging your baby to enjoy babbling.
  • Say his name or touch his hand to gain his attention.
  • Make eye contact and smile at your baby when you talk.
  • Turn off the TV and radio for a time every day while you play.
  • Sing nursery rhymes together.
Listening: toddlers
  • Keep to a routine, with quiet times for stories, games and puzzles 
  • Include times for noisy play and letting off steam. 
  • Tidy his toys occasionally so he attends to one thing at a time. 
  • Smile when your child talks to you. 
  • Turn off the TV and radio for a time every day while you play. 
  • Make a quiet corner with somewhere to sit and draw, colour or look at books.
Understanding
  • Repeat simple words in many different contexts.
  • Broaden your toddler’s understanding of the world by taking him out to different places.
  • Talk to him about the things he sees.
  • Keep the language you use simple: one or two words in his first year.
  • Emphasise important “key” words in a sentence.
  • Place a new word at the end of a sentence. 

 If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, just BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Here’s extract 17 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you’d like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog. Questions you ask may find their way (anonymously) into the new Frequently Asked Questions page. find it by clicking the tap at the top of the page.

If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week’s post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Here are two more games to play with your child, to help him understand language. These are both sorting games. They help him explore the relationship between different objects, their similarities adn differences. They also your child move from recognising real objects and toys to pictures, an important step in learning about symbols. Understanding symbols underpins his languge skills, and also, later, his ability to learn to read.

Understanding activities: sorting
Help him sort things into boxes. Collect a wide range of toys and pictures. Make sure you include things that look different but have the same name. Include a red sock, a short sock, a long sock, a picture of a sock and a dirty sock, to go in one box, for example. Different kinds of pencils, or brushes, or books will go in the other boxes.
Sort them into the boxes with him, using the objects’ names and discussing how they are the same and how they are different.  Point out that all the socks have a toe and a heel, but that one sock is longer, or cleaner, or a different colour than the other one.
Understanding activities: post box
When you’ve played many times with real objects or small toys, start to introduce pictures for some of your games. Here’s a game to boost his understanding of different objects and their word labels.
Many words fit into pairs of opposites. “Hot” is the opposite of “cold” and “high” is the opposite of “low”. Learning to recognise the contrasts between these characteristics helps your child establish important ideas such as size, shape, number and volume. 
 
This simple sorting game helps him learn about ‘big’ and  ‘small’, ‘fat’ and ‘thin’, ‘high’ and ‘low’. 
Make two post boxes out of old cardboard boxes by cutting holes in the front.  
Collect pictures that show opposites, using the concepts of size and height. Make sure you have several pictures of each kind of item and that the big items are very clearly much bigger than the small ones. Big things should fill the whole page, while small things should sit right in the middle with plenty of plain space around them.
Select two pictures, for example, a big face and a small face. Play a posting game, by putting the big face in one box and the small face in the other. 
Move on to pictures of fat things and thin things, open things and closed things, and play the game again.
Avoid introducing more than one concept at a time: spend several sessions on big and small, and then wait a while before moving on to fat and thin.
Later, you can begin to introduce the idea of some big things being even bigger than other big things. Point things out in the street and keep the conversation going. 
Your child learns to understand big and very big, before he can manage big and bigger.

If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, just BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: Your Baby’s Understanding

Here’s extract number 12 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

The third key that unlocks the mysteries of language for your child, is understanding. In previous extracts, we’ve looked at how he learns to notice and pay careful attention to the world around him, and how he learns to listen to noises.

This extract explains how your baby starts to understand the significance of words, and looks at the importance of gesture.

If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week’s post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Communication
is a two-way process. You talk, while I listen and decode your words in order to understand what you mean. Then I reply, while you listen, decode and understand, according to research undertaken in 1948 by Shannon and Weaver. If this process is going to work when you talk to your child, he needs to understand the words you use, and the grammatical structures you use to assemble them together into meaningful sentences.

Without that understanding, your communication is less effective and the message is lost or scrambled. Your child needs to understand the meaning of the words, phrases and sentences of language, so he can follow verbal instructions, ask for things, or pass on information.

Understanding: infants
At birth, your baby does not understand any words, although he can hear your voice and enjoy its sound, finding it soothing. At this time, his concern is to make sure you respond to his demands for food, warmth and comfort, to keep him alive. All his brainpower focuses on fulfilling his immediate needs.

As he grows, and his billion brain cells start to build connective pathways to each other, he begins to recognize that your voice sounds different at certain times and in certain circumstances. Sometimes you speak quietly, but sometimes you sound agitated or urgent.

He starts to notice the differences and he turns to look at the person speaking, interested in the noise their speech makes. He gets excited when he hears your voice approaching, associating it with the good things about a parent: food, comfort, warmth and safety.

Understanding: six months
At around 6 months, he turns to the sound of doorbells or dogs barking, hearing the difference between those noises and speech. Now he realizes that your speech is more than simple noise. He hears some sound combinations repeated. He hears you say “no” or “bye-bye” many times, and the link between meaning and sound grows in his brain.

He starts to recognize his own name, probably the word he hears most often. He also begins to understand the language of gesture, including waving.

Understanding: gesture
He needs to hear words and see gestures in context, to work out what they mean. This is a good time to start introducing simple signing. Signing allows him to associate gestures with words and their meaning.

Gestures are easier for him to understand and copy than words. They’re bigger, which makes them easier to see and the movements are less complicated. A wave is one simple movement, easy to decode and understand, while the word “bye-bye” is a string of small sounds put together in a special pattern.

Signs are easier for him to make, as they need fewer fine motor skills: and his motor skills are still developing alongside his language.

Come back next week for another extract. A link will appear HERE.

If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, you can BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).