At first, it feels a little silly chatting to a newborn. After all, they don’t understand what you are saying and what exactly should you talk about? However, the more you talk with your baby, the better. Even if Bub doesn’t have the words yet, they will be listening and trying to join in the conversation! Every word and every gesture you make, they are absorbing every moment, building their understanding of language and communication.
“Literacy is an emerging skill that begins at birth and these early skills are critical to build the foundation of literacy—without them, the more complex skills of reading and writing can be difficult to master,” explains Karen Gawen, Young People’s Services Supervisor from Sunshine Coast Council. “Studies have found that 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. “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,” says Karen.
What kind of talking
All kinds of baby talk is good! Try and talk as much as you can throughout your day about whatever is happening in your shared world.
“It’s not something to be forced or preplanned, and it doesn’t have to be about anything significant,” Karen says. “Talk about preparing meals, things you see in the park, what’s happening as you are playing—it might seem a little inconsequential to
you but it’s all really important to your baby.”
Keep it gentle and positive, so all corresponding gestures are calm too. “By communicating in a gentle way, it strengthens your bond whilst teaching
them about the world.”
Tips and tricks for baby talk
The most important thing for parents to do is to be fully present when talking. “Tune into your child. Turn off the TV and do whatever you need to give them your undivided attention,” Karen says.
Help your child learn about conversation by pausing and giving your child time to respond. And, as they learn to talk, give them time to find the words—try not to finish their sentences and make sure they are finished before you talk.
“Notice what your child is interested in and talk about those things, and mention experiences you have shared: ‘It’s raining! Remember that time we got stuck in the rain?’”
Rather than avoiding using new words, explain their meaning and build on them by using them in several different sentences: ‘Molly is going to the vet today. The vet is
a doctor that looks after animals.’
Reading to your baby is another easy way to talk and build those early literacy skills.
“Try and read a story together every day from birth,” said Karen. “After a few weeks, Bub will know that this is the special quiet time you enjoy together.”
Let your baby choose what to read, turn the pages, play with the book—even if it is the same story every night! “Rather than just reading the words, talk about the story and make up silly voices—you can even make up your own stories!” says Karen.
Singing is good for literacy too
Singing songs and using rhyme are simple yet very effective ways of introducing language to your baby.
“Songs have a lot of repetition and they often slow down language whilst having accompanying actions, making it a fun and expressive way to encounter new words,” Karen explains.
Sing songs and rhymes in the car, in the bath or whenever you have five minutes to sit together.
To find out more about early literacy activities at your local library—both online and in-person—head to www.library.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au