How To Encourage Infant Language Development

Infant Language Development

The First Steps In Infant Language Development

During the first three years of life the human brain is developing and maturing at a rapid rate.  

Language and communication skills develop best in a world that is full of sights and sounds and where there is consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.

At about 18 weeks after conception a baby's ears begin to function, and although sounds may be a little muffled  baby will soon get used to the sounds of family and especially of course to his mother's voice.

Communication begins during the first few days of life when a baby learns that a cry will bring what he wants whether that be food, comfort or company.

At 7 days of age, a baby can tell his mother's voice from another woman's voice and after another week a baby can distinguish his father's voice from that of any other man.  A new born child has not yet learned what his body is capable of  but as he learns to control his lips, tongue and jaws he is able to begin with the basics of  language. He turns towards sounds.

By 3 months, he will respond if spoken to and if he carefully watches the face of the speaker. A baby can make vowel sounds by this stage and can show pleasure or displeasure by giggles or cries. Later he will add consonants and say "dada" or "mama," but does not at first give these to the people concerned.

Gradually children begin to sort out the speech sounds that make up the words of their language. He speaks at first to entertain himself, trying out new sounds and combinations and then tests them out on family.

He responds appropriately to the moods others express such as happiness and anger. After 8 or 10 months he can respond to simple instructions such as  'Give it to me'. Your baby is learning by this age the social value of language. And that is more than a means of getting what one wants.

He will continue to use baby talk for some time, but includes proper words as well.

By 15 months an average number of words used is about 10. These will include the names of special people and such things as drink, cup, teddy. He begins to understand and use simple verbs such as 'sleep', 'drink' and 'eat'.


Infant Language Development:
Understanding Short Sentences

After a few weeks more he can understand a command with two parts such as 'Pick up teddy and put him in the cot.'

Infant Language Development:
Speaking A Few Short Sentences

By his second birthday he can combine words into simple sentences such as 'Daddy come back.' Gradually the sentences will increase in complexity and a child will often repeat things he has heard. This is the ideal time to learn nursery rhymes for instance. It is also an age when parents have to be a little cautious as to what they say in front of them in case it is repeated.

Infant Language Development:
Speaking More Complex Sentences

By two years old your toddler can use and understand prepositions such as 'up', 'under', 'behind' and 'in'. These are concepts learned and experienced when your baby starts to crawl. His speech can by now mostly be understood by people who know him, but there may still be some way to go with rhythm and fluency.

Soon however speech gaining, in almost all cases, is developing so fast that it is hard to keep up. Questions can exhaust you. Why? Why? What? seem to come at the speed of a machine gun. Best is to put your feet up and prepare for the next onslaught whenever your baby goes to sleep.

These examples are typical, but there is a great variation in the onset of language.


Interesting Facts

Usually children will understand far more than they speak.

Generally girls are faster than boys at communicating. Some children seem to develop their language smoothly while others do so in spurts followed by apparent pauses. Because speech development can be so varied parents should not be concerned if their child does not match up to another of the same age.  

If children are taken for regular checks with the family doctor or a pediatrician he can objectively evaluate your infant's language development.


How To Boost Infant Language Development

There are many ways you can help their baby to develop his language.

Read and sing. Even when baby is very small talk to him, read books and sing to your child on a daily basis. New words should be in context e.g. clap hands and say 'clap' or point to the parts of the body and say 'ear', eye' etc.

Don't correct. If he gets a word wrong don't say 'Not dink , Drink'. It is better if you just say the word correctly so that he can model himself on your speech.

When you speak to your baby give him time to answer and don't finish his sentences. Be patient. Your child may take longer to find the right word. So, give him time to finish his sentences.

Put your child at ease and give enough time to speak. Look at him attentively when he speaks. And show interest when he speaks. Show that you want to hear what he is going to say. This makes a huge difference to put your child at ease, thereby allowing him to concentrate on what to say.

Nod when you can agree. And ask questions to further explain and to encourage talking. Listen and try to understand his words.

Remove distractions as much as possible. Any outside distractions hinder your child's concentration and making it more difficult to focus on what he wants to say.

Do not disagree, criticize or argue.  Even if you disagree, do not say so. Keep in mind that the goal is to encourage your child to speak… it is NOT to "win" the argument.

Ask lots of questions.  Ask your child to say more. Do anything to encourage him to speak up and tell you more. Language can only be developed by actually speaking… not by listening to someone else. infant language development


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