- Use parentese (the sing-song voice most adults instinctively use with babies) – it helps to stimulate your baby’s language processing areas of the brain and extend your baby’s attention span.
- Talk frequently, all day long. Talk about what you’re doing, the things you see, etc. Describe what’s going on and point things out to your baby.
- Alter your voice and facial expressions to match the level of enthusiasm, emotion and meaning related to particular events.
- Talk at face to face distance so your baby can see your facial expressions and read the movements of your lips. Here’s another good reason to wear your baby in a carrier, like the Ergo, rather than in a pram.
- If you’re bilingual, use your second language naturally. Since I can’t speak a second language, hubby speaks to the kids in their mother tongue while I speak to them in English. I incorporate a second language by Signing from time to time.
- Introduce music at different times during the day and sing simple songs. It really doesn’t matter if you’re off-key – your baby isn’t a critic, he just loves to hear your voice.
- Hang photos for your baby to look at in the crib, car seat, pram, etc. This helps to encourage earlier visual discrimination.
- From 6-9 months, continue using parentese, but gradually transition to child-directed speech using a conversational tone and pace.
- Point out and label objects by name.
- Point out and label attributes, such as soft, smooth, round, blue, stripped, small, wet, hot, etc. (That’s Not My… book series is great for this activity as well)
- Point out objects that are the same or different in one dimension, e.g. opposites – dry/wet, big/small, hot/cold, etc.
- Label and talk about feelings, e.g. tired, hungry, sad, angry, etc.
- Be alert for possible signs of ear infections as these can retard communication development if undetected and left untreated.
- Read lots of books with baby in your lap; repeat books that baby enjoys. Cloth books and board books are great for this age.
- Read rhyming stories (Dr Seuss books are terrific for this) or play with rhyming words and have baby point out parts of the word that sound the same, e.g. pat, mat, hat, cat, rat.
- Practice stacking building blocks to develop hand-eye coordination that will be required later for writing.
- Provide practice opportunities for baby to practice find motor skills such as picking up bits of bread, cheerios, etc.
- Introduce books with one or two sentences per page, or you could make up your own with your child as the star of the book. Children love books about themselves.
- Encourage baby to turn the pages of a board book.
- Have fun during reading sessions, e.g. act silly, make animal sounds.
- Get your baby to participate in the story by asking him to point out things in the story or real life equivalents in the room around him.
- Repeat stories over and over.
- Hold baby close when reading.
- Change your facial expressions while reading.
Stay tuned for specific ideas of communication activities you can play with your baby.