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How can my child learn non-verbal communication?

baby hugging her mom and babbling

Key Points:
1. Babies use non-verbal communication, such as crying, cooing, and gestures, to connect with caregivers before they can speak, aiming to elicit responses and meet their needs.
2. Responding to your baby’s cues, engaging in communication activities, and modeling appropriate behavior fosters healthy attachment and effective communication development in infants.

It is hard to think of living a life without language as this is the main means to communicate our thoughts, desires, and needs to others. Babies find themselves in this position every day before they learn to talk. Therefore they need to use other forms of non-verbal communication and babbling to make themselves understood.

Babies have a strong desire to connect with others. For this reason, even before they can talk, they use non-verbal sounds and body language to achieve this goal. Babies are active communicators, but they don’t have the language to speak just yet. If you observe closely, you’ll see how they communicate without words. By doing this, they seek to obtain a response from their caregivers and when they do, they learn to repeat these actions to get their needs met.


All sorts of non-verbal communication

The moment babies take their first breath outside of the womb they begin to communicate. Crying, cooing, and squealing are all non-verbal cues that they use to get a response from a loving parent. As they get a bit older, they learn to communicate via facial expressions such as smiling and making eye contact. Babies also move their bodies to get a message across, for example moving their legs or arms when excited or in distress. As they reach the age of 8-12 months they further develop this skill by learning to wave, clap, and point.

Responding to your baby’s cues lets them know they are an effective communicator and that they can count on you to meet their needs. It’s not always easy to identify what your little one is trying to communicate, but attuning to their cues with curiosity will help you identify what they’re trying to say. You also help build your baby’s vocabulary as they learn the meaning of words before they can pronounce them.

Help your little one develop communication skills and babbling:

  • Respond when they look at you or make a sound or gesture.
  • Sing to them and use repetitive word games. Repetition is key for the development of language.
  • Talk to your little one and narrate your daily routine. Doing this helps them associate words with actions.
  • Listen closely when your baby is babbling and respond as if you understand what they’re saying.
  • Respond verbally to what they communicate non-verbally.
  • Recognize and respect your baby’s feelings and name them to help your little one develop their vocabulary of “emotions”.
  • Read together. Let your baby turn the pages if they want to. This teaches them that their choices are important and that you like spending time with them.
  • Role model appropriate behavior. Your child is always watching you. Your non-verbal communication is just as important as your words, so be sure to set an example.
  • Make simple and age-appropriate requests. Short and concise requests are best for your baby’s language comprehension.

Responding to your child’s babbling and non-verbal cues in a loving manner is very important for the development of a healthy attachment. This creates a safe environment where your baby feels secure and valued. By interacting with them daily you’ll help them learn to communicate effectively.

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