7 Ways to Encourage Baby Language Development

woman in yellow floral dress with baby girl hugging her

As a parent, you have an important role in the child’s speech and language development. From very young days, your interactions and support can lay the groundwork for effective communication. You can help your baby explore the wonders and joy of speech by establishing a language-rich environment and engaging in meaningful interactions. In this blog article, we’ll look at some practical ways that parents can use to help baby language development.

To give you a snapshot, these are the 7 tips to encourage baby talking.

  1. Become a Chatterbox: Talk, Talk, and TALK!
  2. Respond!
  3. Expand Vocabulary
  4. Use songs and rhymes
  5. Read Aloud to Baby
  6. Introduce Baby Sign Language
  7. Provide Language Opportunities

1.  Become a Chatterbox: Talk, Talk, and TALK!

Simply, talk to your little one. That is one of the most effective ways for baby language development. Throughout the day, keep communicating with her: describe what you’re doing and talk about objects and surroundings.

I will give you two examples so you can see the difference. Let’s say you’re going out for a walk with your baby. In one example, you get ready and say “Let’s go,” and then head out. Walk a bit and then come back home, saying “we’re home.” In another example, you get ready by saying “We’re going out for a walk. Shall we check what the weather is like? Oh, it’s lovely, sunny weather! See! Now let’s check your diaper bag, just in case we need anything from it. Now we’re all set! Let’s go!” And then, while walking, you talk about the weather, flowers and trees, a dog that cheerfully runs ahead of you, and so many other things! And head home, saying, “It was such a nice walk! We’ve seen yellow flowers, trees moving and dancing, and oh! Do you remember the dog that wanted to take your snack from our stroller basket? It was so funny, wasn’t it?” Can you see the difference?

Your baby may not understand every word you say, but remember that she is absorbing the rhythm, intonation, and structure of language. Keeping eye contact and using many facial expressions will help capture their attention.

2. Respond!

two white message balloons
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

It’s exciting when your baby starts to coo, babble, and tries to make any sound (that is not crying!) When you see they are trying to communicate, respond quickly and enthusiastically. Have your little ones feel that mummy is genuinely interested in the sound and gestures they make. Your response will boost their confidence and build the idea in their minds that what they say is being heard and valued. For example, if your infant holds an object and shows it to you, or at least makes an excited sound about it, identify their action and the object and describe its features. (To give you a more detailed example, you can say when your little one shows a teddy bear, “Oh, you are giving a teddy bear to mummy. It’s very soft and cuddly!”) This interactive conversation – yes, I call it a “conversation” –  motivates them to keep trying and communicating.

3. Expand Vocabulary 

As she grows, use more diverse words to expand her vocabulary. Speak in simple language at first and gradually introduce new words and concepts. For example, when teaching a word “bus”, start with bus, and when you think she can understand the word “bus”, try including other features such as colours and say “red bus,” and then “big red bus.” But it doesn’t mean that you need to wait until your little one seems to understand a word before introducing various words. As we all know, babies are like sponges. Provide extensive language input by describing everyday activities, objects, and emotions with a rich and diverse vocabulary. For instance, instead of saying, “Here is your apple,” try saying, “Do you want to try this red apple? You will like this juicy and crunchy apple!”

4. Use Songs and Rhymes

Songs and nursery rhymes are very useful for baby language development. You will notice that many nursery rhymes have simple tunes and repetitive rhymes. Singing introduces your infant to language’s rhythm, melody, and tone. Encourage your baby to clap, bounce, or move along to a song. It will make them more engaged and help with physical coordination too. If you need an idea or a list of nursery rhymes, here is an example of 20 popular nursery rhymes: https://youtu.be/lzc_Rd4TuYg.

In my experience, going to a rhyme time at a local library or a playgroup really helped. First, it brings the nursery rhymes from your childhood back to your memory, and secondly, you can learn some hand movements that you can do for each song. Also, as she can see other little ones sing and jump, she gets more engaged and interested. (Plus, you can make mum friends there!) No age is too early. I started to bring my little one to rhyme times when he was around 3-4 months old, and you can see that little babies there and even at that young age, they look fascinated. But don’t be discouraged if she could not seem less interested! I believe your little ones are always observing and absorbing! (To give you an idea of what a rhyme time is like, check out this rhyme time video from Crawley Library. It was one of virtual rhyme time sessions during the pandemic, so on a real rhyme time, there will be parents and little ones and much more interaction.)

5. Read Aloud to Baby

woman reading book to toddler
Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

From a young age, include books into your baby’s everyday routine. Choose durable cloth or board books with brightly coloured illustrations and basic, repeated text. (My boys loved something like this.) To increase their engagement and understanding, point to the characters and objects in pages, describe them, and make sound effects while you read. Reading aloud to your little ones not only encourage baby language development, but also promote listening skills and an appreciation for storytelling. Ask questions and encourage your little one to turn the pages to make reading more interactive.

6. Introduce Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language connects babies and their caregivers and lowers frustration (from both sides!) by allowing little ones to express their basic needs through simple signs. You might worry that teaching them sign language might delay your baby’s speech development, but counterintuitively, according to research, teaching babies sign language can stimulate and expedite their speech development. Babies who are exposed to consistent use of sign language learn to associate gestures with specific words and obtain higher understanding and language development at a young age. Begin with a few of the most commonly used signs, such as “milk,” “eat,” or “more.” (You can check the signs here.) Consistently use these signs while saying the word aloud. As is always the case in parenting, consistency is the key.

7. Provide Language Opportunities

two children playing with toys
Photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels.com

Give your infant the opportunity to participate in conversations. Setting up playdates with other children, attending baby classes, or joining local parent and baby groups can all help. These environments expose your child to a variety of voices, communication styles, and social cues, all of which are important for baby language development. Encourage her to interact with other babies (and parents) and imitate sounds. But again, do not be discouraged if your baby does not interact with other babies, as it is very normal at this early age. Your baby is learning enough just by being in an environment where more than two people exchange conversation back and forth with verbal and non-verbal language.

As a mother, you have enormous power in baby language development. You can motivate your child to find joy in communicating by creating a language-rich environment, engaging in meaningful interactions, and using many other ways. Keep in mind that each baby develops at their own pace, be patient and appreciate each milestone along the way!