It is hard to think of living a life without language as this is the main mean 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 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.
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 him know he is an effective communicator and that he can count on you to meet his needs. It’s not always easy to identify what your little one is trying to communicate, but attuning to his cues with curiosity will help you identify what he is trying to say. You also help build your baby’s vocabulary as he learns the meaning of words before he can actually pronounce them.
How to help your little one develop communication skills and vocabulary:
- Respond when he looks at you or makes a sound or gesture.
- Sing to him 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 him associate words with actions.
- Listen closely when your baby babbles and respond as if you understand what he is saying.
- Respond verbally to what he communicates non-verbally.
- Recognize and respect your baby’s feelings and name the feeling shown to help him develop his vocabulary of “emotions”.
- Read together. Let your baby turn the pages if he wants to, this teaches him that his choices are important and that you like spending time with him.
- 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 requests simple and age appropriate. Short and concise requests are best for your baby’s language comprehension.
Responding to your child’s 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 him on a daily basis you’ll help him learn to communicate in an effective way.
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