When you speak to a baby, they will look directly at your mouth. When you speak to them, in the charming and affectionate way we all speak to babies, they will not understand what you are saying but will feel emotion and be so thrilled that they will start to move their own mouths. (Montessori, 1995). Although our babies do not use spoken language or words in the first year, they have language. Language refers to both nonverbal and verbal communication.
Baby’s nonverbal communication is eye contact, movements, cues, and facial expressions. This form of communication requires us to be attentive, using serve and return. “Babies need daily back and forth, serve and return social interaction that happens during face-to-face” (Clinton, 2020, p.19). Come down to your baby’s level or lift them up when they are expressing themselves. These interactions help our children to connect with us, building positive relationships. Our children will learn they are safe to express themselves and will communicate verbally and nonverbally.
Verbal language is sounds, babbles and cries. Cooing and babbling are a baby’s way of expressing feelings before spoken language. Cries usually communicate needs such as hunger, tiredness, or discomfort. This language can be hard to understand in the first days. It takes patience but must be heard and responded to. As time passes you may be able to distinguish between cries and help them effectively. Spoken language or words will develop if the baby has functional vocal cords, can hear the sounds they make, wants to speak, and is provided with rich language (Davis, 2021, p115-127).
Activities to Help Support Baby’s Non-Verbal Language Development
- Pay attention to your baby and describe their day for them. Talk as you feed, bathe, and diaper them.
- Play down to baby level.
- Lift them up when they are trying to express themselves and respond to them.
- Mirror play and facial expressions (Davis, 2021, p115-127).
Activities to Help Support Baby’s Verbal Language Development
- Observe, be attentive, listen, and respond with sounds back such as ma, da and ba. Expand those sounds such as Mama, Daddy, and Baby.
- Introduce Animal sounds. Old MacDonald and Going to the Zoo are some well loved ones.
- Imіtаtе babies асtіоnѕ. Clарріng your hands, throwing a kіѕѕ, wave hello and goodbye. Play simple games such as раt-а-саkе, рееk-а-bоо and the іtѕу-bіtѕу-ѕріdеr (Bullard, 2014).
Activities to Help Support Baby’s Spoken Language Development and Listening
- Start early when baby is in the womb, talk with them.
- Sing, rhyme, read poetry, read stories, and play music (Davis, 2021, p115-127).
Bullard, J. (2014). Creating environments for learning: Birth to age eight (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Pearson.
Clinton, Jean. (2020). Love Builds Brains. Tall Pine Press.
Davies, S., & Uzodike, J. (2021). The Montessori Baby: A parent’s guide to nurturing your baby with love, respect, and understanding. Workman Publishing.
Montessori, Maria. (1995). The Absorbent Mind: A Classic in Education and Child Development for Educators and Parents. Holt Paperbacks, 1995.