Sitting there on the red monkey blanket that my son loves, I felt like a kid all over again. I dipped the florescent green wand into the soapy liquid and pulled it out too fast; the water splashed me in the face and I shouted YIKES! In that moment my son laughed hysterically and I hadn’t even blown the bubble yet! He was having a blast just watching me get ready…. I counted “One, two, three” and blew THE biggest bubble I could. He observed in fascination as this bubble floated in mid air, gently falling down on his knee and…… POP!
In all the time I have been working with babies and toddlers, a bottle of bubbles has never failed to get a coo, a babble, or loads of talking out of a little one. Children need to be motivated to speak, engage, and communicate with their caregivers. Bubbles can just be that motivation your little one needs. But it’s more than that.
Often times I have a worried parent asking me “Why isn’t my toddler using words yet?” and before I ask the list of questions that might indicate an actual speech and/or language delay, I always want to know how motivated is this child to WANT to talk. Are mom and dad over anticipating their needs too often, preventing the child from making a decision for themselves or formulating a thought, opinion, or question?
It’s easy to over anticipate the needs of your child when you’re trying to teach them about the WORLD. So here are a few tips on how you can start guiding your little one to begin using language to communicate their wants, needs and observations at age level.
1. Model SLOW and SIMPLE language.
Your 10 month old is processing information at a much slower rate than you are. Rather than speaking in 4-5 word sentences, keep it simple and use 1-2 words at a time to point out your thoughts and/or observations. Example: “Big bubble!” (instead of: “Look at the big bubble, it’s going to pop on your face!”) I also like to over exaggerate the word BIG and this naturally SLOWS down the word and teaches intonation at the same time…
2. Ask “More?”
Rather than anticipating that your child wants more banana and cutting them more and more pieces (leaving it on their tray), cut a couple slices, wait until they finish it, and then ask them if they want more. Teach them the word MORE and do this by pairing the word MORE with the basic sign that represents the word MORE (refer to American Sign Language) -- You are also now teaching your child to communicate their needs and desires. If you had initially anticipated your child wanting more, by cutting all the banana and leaving it on the tray for them to finish, you weren’t really giving your child the opportunity to ask you for anything.
3. Be Consistent.
Whether you’re speaking in one or two languages with your little one, make sure you’re being consistent. Model the names of familiar people and objects in the home, consistently and on a daily basis. Your child is “bombarded” with these titles and labels everyday, processing these words again and again, and hopefully imitating you within a few weeks. Being consistent with these titles and labels goes a long way. For example you may introduce Grandpa as “Papa” one day and then “Grampie” another day. By using two different names for Grandpa Joe, you may confuse your little one into thinking that Grandpa has two names OR they may just take longer to process the fact that Grandpa can be called by two different names and then take longer to say the name for Grandpa. So stick with “Papa” or “Grampie” but don’t mix the two…
4. Listen and Wait.
Listening to your baby or toddler can be rewarding in so many ways. During play, I encourage parents to stop talking for a little while and to wait for their child to INITIATE talk. You will be surprised by what you may hear and often times this can turn into the best part of your play session.
5. Make Meaningful Interactions.
During play, make as much eye contact with your child as you can. Important for social language and social development is the use of eye contact in communication. When talking and playing with your baby, whether it’s a verbal or nonverbal interaction, make eye contact, gestures, and exaggerated facial expressions to teach your baby about nonverbal communication cues. Don’t be afraid to get silly with this one!
These are just a few general tips on how to guide your baby into the world of language.
Just be mindful that when you’re teaching your child about the WORLD, you need to put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Are you having fun? Are you in the moment… listening and waiting? Are you motivated to learn or to know WHY something is the way it is? Be that child who is in awe of that floating bubble…Be in awe!