As a sitter, parents may ask you to help their baby learn to talk. While the cooing and gurgling can be absolutely adorable, eventually everyone gets excited for that first word. Or the first sentence! It opens so many doors for how you and the parents can interact with the little one.
There are many activities you can try to encourage a child to talk. Soon enough they’ll go from getting a syllable out to two to three word sentences and then even more complex conversation.
Some activities parents can start while their baby is still in the womb. Of course, you may not be part of the picture then. So this list focuses on what can be easily added into your child care routine as the baby develops their communication skills and comprehension.
Read & Talk To Your Baby
Sing, talk, and read to the baby. They’ll hear you—and even when they can’t understand you, you’re laying the foundation for them to begin forming associations with these sounds. Telling stories is also useful as a baby’s vocabulary begins to expand. It keeps them more engaged than the passivity of a screen.
Speak like you would to an adult instead of using baby-talk. It may be tempting to use cute voices (because how can you not?), but the more they hear you speak naturally, the easier it will be for them to pick it up. This is also why early childhood is the best time to learn multiple languages. Repetition is helpful!
Narrate Your Actions
Sometimes nannying can feel like a running monologue as you go through your own checklist. Verbalizing your thoughts can actually help a baby’s language skills progress. Tell them what you’re doing as you do it.
For example, “I’m scrubbing the pan that had our lasagna in it so that it’s clean for us to use again.” You’re turning a routine chore into a learning experience for the baby.
Similar to narration, if you name all of the objects you’re using each time you use them, you‘re reinforcing language associations and helping them improve their vocabulary. For example, instead of using pronouns like “it”, say “the ball.”
Use Songs & Music
Nursery rhymes and songs are catchy because they have a simple beat and rhymes. Babies can begin to babble along to you singing and the music, and eventually this may progress into syllables from the songs and then the whole song itself.
Music and noise are also great ways to keep a baby active and engaged in something. The repetition in many baby-focused songs may be helpful in getting your baby to talk early.
Limit Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 18 months have no screentime beyond video chatting. While you could reason that hearing the language in television shows or movies can help your baby’s verbal skills develop, it’s not the same as talking to you or a parent. They can pick up other concepts from TV, but early talking just isn’t one of them. Language learning at that age is best when it is reciprocal.
Make It A Dialogue
On that note, you can begin to create conversations with a baby even before they’re fully verbalizing. Simple acts like giving expectant pauses that they can fill in with sounds, babble, or words let them know that you want them to talk to you and respond.
You can also expand their sentences. If the child is at the single word stage and is requesting their toy, you can respond with “Yes, this is your train. It goes toot-toot!” They’ll pick this up and eventually begin to mimic you.
Limit Or Reduce Pacifier Use
This one’s pretty simple. If you want to know how to encourage a baby talk sooner, you have to give them the opportunity. Babies can’t talk or try out new syllables and words if something is in their mouth. Try to keep the pacifier or thumb-sucking behavior to bedtime.
Remember, communication isn’t just verbal. And for babies who are driven by touch or action, movement can be a major motivator in learning language. Have them sing a song while bouncing around your house or running a pillow obstacle course. Narrate their actions. Or try naming and pointing to their body parts. You can also use the gestures that accompany many nursery rhymes to add to their understanding.
Babies will progress from syllables to words to phrases to sentences. Trying to make a child begin a conversation as soon as they hit ten months is just overly ambitious. You can repeat their sounds and expand the word (e.g., follow “buh” with “ball”). Give them time to grasp sounds before trying to get them to achieve the next language milestone.
Celebrate Their Achievements
When a baby learns a new word or starts stringing together phrases, get excited. Their brains have just done something big, and your warm smile will keep motivating them. You can clap, dance, or do a silly cheer. You want the little one to think that talking more is fun.
Make sure that you share these ideas and all the knowledge you’ve gained about your baby with the family you work with. The more people who engage the baby in talking, the better. Find your next family on Sittercity.