Talking with your baby is more important than you think!

Though you might feel a little crazy talking to your baby bump, research now suggests babies begin to absorb language before they are born. During the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, babies listen, learn, and remember the language they hear, tuning into the flow of language far earlier than originally thought. Newborns can also tell the difference between their mother’s native tongue and foreign language just hours after birth. Simply talking with your baby in a calm and relaxing voice can do wonders for your baby’s emergent literacy.


Why talking with your baby is important

What is emergent literacy?

Emergent literacy is the skills children develop before formally learning to read and write. Babbling and experimenting with different sounds are the beginnings of oral language; scribbling and mark-making are early writing; pointing at signs and interacting with print are early reading.

“Literacy is an emerging skill that begins at birth,” Karen Gawen, Sunshine Coast Council Young People’s Services supervisor, says. These early skills are critical to building the foundation of literacy—without them, the more complex skills of reading and writing can be difficult to master.”


Introducing early literacy to your baby

Early literacy isn’t necessary to teach! These early language skills are best learned through everyday moments with the most important people in their lives – playing, laughing, talking and reading with you! These things are not only fun, they are wonderful for little brains and great for bonding too.

“By making simple early literacy activities part of your shared day-to-day, your child can develop a love for reading that they WILL carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

To develop these skills, babies and children need plenty of opportunities to talk, read, sing and play, so make these things part of your daily routine from the very early days. Those children who have plenty of opportunities to talk with engaged adults each day are less likely to experience difficulty with literacy when they reach school.

“Don’t worry that they don’t understand the exact meaning of the words you are saying,” Karen says. “When you repeat words, the speech and language parts of the brain are stimulated. The more language they hear, the more those parts of the brain will grow and develop.”


Simple ways of talking with your baby

  • Describe the baby’s feelings each time they respond—”you are happy/hungry/cold.” Even if the baby doesn’t understand the meaning, your tone and expression can make them feel understood.
  • Copy baby’s sounds, and have a babbling conversation! Then, encourage them to copy you.
  • Put their sounds into a sentence: “Ball? Yes, that is a red ball; shall we play?”
  • Sing songs. Don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune – babies don’t care! If you aren’t confident, head along to a community event such as Rhyme Time at the library.
  • Read every day and carry books with you. Choose hard-backed or cloth books babies can explore, chew, and develop a love and familiarity with reading. Again, events such as Storytime at the library can help.

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By Angela Sutherland
After spending many years hustling stories on busy editorial desks around the world, Angela is now mum of two little ones and owner/editor at Kids on the Coast / Kids in the City. She is an atrocious cook and loves cutting shapes to 90s dance music. Angela is the editor of Kids on the Coast - a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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