In the first 5 years of life, a baby’s brain develops faster than at any other time in his or her life. In fact, from birth to age 3, children double their brain weight! However, they lose about 50% of those new connections by age 4. This process of synaptic pruning is important because it makes the remaining connections more efficient. As a result, children learn new skills and abilities much faster than adults do. For example, at the age of just 8 months, babies know that when they kick their feet, music is playing and it’s coming from inside their bellies. They also know to kick their legs when they hear someone speaking in another language!
By observing your baby or child carefully and talking to them as soon as possible you will be able to enjoy the following:
* Name objects and people
* Respond to requests such as ‘come here’ by walking towards you
* Understand simple instructions such as ‘stop’ at a road crossing or ‘don’t touch the dog’
Make sure that you give them time to respond to your request. If they don’t understand, make it simple for them by using a few words or short sentence.
In addition to talking to your child from an early age, you need to encourage them with every step of their language development. You can do this in many ways:
* Repeat what your child says and add a sentence of your own if they’re very young
* Continue with what you were doing when your baby started talking – playing pat-a-cake, tickling their tummy or reading a book so that he/she knows the activity is still fun even when they are making new sounds and noises
Encourage these skills by taking advantage of everyday opportunities such as time or playtime. Here are some more ideas you can try at home.
* Singing games are great for language development. Try changing the words of a familiar song to make it about something your child likes, such as ice cream, pizza or trains
* Read books together with simple rhyming texts and bright pictures of friends who are doing exciting things like riding bikes or skating. Look out for opportunities to talk about new situations your child might encounter outside the house
Here are some other fun ways you can help your child improve their communication skills:
* Playful acting – show how an an animal looks and feels by making funny faces and sounds; helping them learn verbs such as ‘running’ and ‘jumping’. You can also play this game using stuffed animals or puppets
* Singing and dancing – when you’re in the car, in a restaurant or stuck indoors on a rainy day, play fun games involving movement such as ‘Simon says’, where your child has to do whatever you command when you say ‘Simon says’. When they follow the instructions correctly, add another word such as ‘jump’ or ‘shake your bootie’
* Making gestures – Point to things and ask your child to do the same. Say words such as ‘up’, ‘down’, ’round’ and ‘big’
* Child’s play – try setting up a simple pretend shop or café. Encourage your child to ‘serve’ you and thank them when they do