Talking with babies and children from birth is important because it builds your child’s language and communication skills. These are important skills for life. Talking with your child doesn’t have to be a big deal – just chatting about everyday things is a great start.
Talking with babies and toddlers: why more talk is better
Talking with your baby or toddler can help his language and communication development. The more you talk with your baby or toddler, the better.
This is because parents who talk a lot to their young children use lots of different sounds and words. When children hear more words, it helps to improve their understanding of language, and increases the number and variety of words that they can understand and use.
And it’s not just about better language skills. Talking with babies helps their brains develop and can help children do better at school when they’re older.
What kind of talking?
Talking with babies and toddlers doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can start by talking about everyday things in your home and family life – just whatever you’re doing with your baby at the time.
For example, you’re outside with your baby and he points to a tree. You could say, ‘It’s a great big enormous tree, isn’t it? I wonder what kind of animals live in that tree? Maybe a squirrel?’
How much talking?
Any and all talking is good for your baby, so try to talk as much as you can during the day.
Babies like quiet times too, so if your baby stops responding to you and starts to look tired, restless or grumpy, you might like to choose another time in the day to talk. Your baby’s personality might also affect how often she wants to communicate with you. Some babies are naturally more outgoing, and others are quieter.
When to start talking?
It’s great to start talking with your baby as early as you can. In fact, from birth your baby absorbs a huge amount of information about words and talking, just from listening and watching you talk.
Conversations with your baby might feel one-sided to begin with. But even though your young baby doesn’t have words yet, she’ll still try to join the conversation! She communicates with you through crying, eye contact and listening. Later on, she’ll coo, smile, laugh, make more sounds and move her body to communicate with you.
If you give your child your full attention when you’re talking, you’ll notice these attempts to respond to you.
By communicating back and forth with your child in a warm and gentle way, you’re creating and sharing experiences together, which strengthens relationships and helps children learn more about the world at the same time.
Tips for talking with babies and toddlers
Any time you’re with your child is a good opportunity to talk. This could be when you’re changing diapers, having lunch together, travelling in the car or train, pushing the pram or just pottering around the house – you don’t need to make a special time for talking.
You might feel silly at first trying to have a full conversation with a baby, but keep at it! Conversations and activities that include some of the points below are good for developing your child’s language skills.
Tune into your child
Read, tell stories, sing songs and make rhymes
Your child will also learn to talk by watching how you communicate with others. If you talk in a positive way, your child will learn to speak positively to others. For example, when you’re talking together at mealtimes, you can use positive language like ‘What was good about your day today?’
Video: Connecting and communicating (0-6 months)
Watch this video and learn the importance of communicating with your baby, and how it helps her learn and develop.
Video: Connecting and communicating (7-17 months)
Cradle cap is the oily, scaly crust that babies sometimes get on their scalps, in their body folds and on their torsos. Although cradle cap looks uncomfortable, it doesn’t usually bother your baby.