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Promoting Language Development

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Dear Debi,
My 5-month-old baby girl is making cooing sounds all the time. What can I do to help her turn her coos into words?
Jacob Burt
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
PROMOTING LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
  • Babies need to hear language, make sounds & get responses
  • Talk, sing & read to your baby every day
  • Narrate what you do during the day
Expert Advice
Walter Gilliam, Ph.D.
Walter Gilliam, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor of Child Psychiatry & Psychology
The more you can talk to your baby, the better. Language, language, more language. Have you ever heard a parent lament that they wish that they hadn't talked as much to their baby? Never. We can't possibly talk enough to our children. That's how children learn to be able to develop their own language skills and read and write.

In terms of language development milestones to look for, at the beginning, it's mostly gurgling sounds when a baby is in the first few months old. By about 3 months old, you get the cooing sounds that this parent was talking about. Then you get some babbling sounds at about maybe 6 or 7 months old. Then that starts to develop into something that people call jabbering, which I like to think of as sort of babbling with oomph. It's babbling, but it sounds a little bit like the rise and fall of normal conversation, but there are no real words there yet.

As your child develops, the language is going to change. It'll become a little more responsive to what your child is able to understand and how your child is able to respond back to you. You might replace some of the strict narration with some questions and maybe some chaining. When a parent says, "What is this? Is this a stick?" and when the child says, "stick," you can respond, "brown stick." Some people refer to that as chaining, so you say "banana," and then the baby says, "banana," and then you say, "yellow banana." Baby will say, "yellow banana," and then you say, "long banana."

Remember that babies understand words far earlier than they're able to express those words. Just because your child isn't saying certain words doesn't necessarily mean that your child doesn't understand what those words are.
Child Care Provider Comments
Rob Morhaim
Rob Morhaim
Father of two
Every time we read a story, I will point out the pictures and ask my children to describe the picture to me or tell me a story from the picture. We began reading to them before they could even talk. Now, they have their favorite stories and they choose their own books to be read.
Aleda Johnson
Aleda Johnson
Grandmother of four
With my grandkids, I'll show them an object and repeat the object's name. For instance, I'll look at them and say "juice." I'll show them the juice and I'll say the word. I'll let them touch it and hold it. The next time, they will recognize the object and say, "juice." It really helps develop their vocabulary.
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
What I've found that really helps develop a child's language development is reading and talking. I constantly talk to the children, tell stories, and reiterate words. Even though they know the alphabet, we keep saying it and repeating it. In storytelling, I always stop after every couple of sentences, and I let the children touch the pictures on the pages. They understand it better.

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Promoting Language Development
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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