Communication and talking with babies and toddlers

By Raising Children Network January 23, 2024 11:13 pm

Babies are born ready to communicate with you. 

Newborn babies communicate by crying. This is how they let you know that they’re hungry, uncomfortable, in pain or need comfort. Sometimes babies cry for no obvious reason. 

During the first 3 months, babies begin to use their voice and body to communicate. For example, they’ll smile, laugh, make cooing sounds, and move their arms and legs when they’re interested or excited. 

From around 3 months, you’ll see and hear baby language starting to develop. This happens when you and your child make eye contact, interact, and take turns, almost as if you’re having a conversation. 

After about 9 months of age, your child will let you know they’re interested in something by staring, pointing, touching, and grabbing. 

By about 12 months of age, your child will probably understand the names of things they see or use often, like ‘cup’, ‘doll’ or ‘toe’. 

And as your toddler’s language develops between 1 and 2 years, you and your child might start to have simple conversations. For example, they might draw your attention to something and say, ‘That?’ (‘What’s that?’) 

In language development at 2-3 years, children start to use words to ask for familiar things like food and toys. They also use words to comment on things that interest them. By about 3 years of age, children can ask and respond to basic questions and follow simple instructions. They might start to join sentences using words like ‘and’. 

Talk to your child a lot

Children learn to talk when parents and caregivers talk to them a lot. You don’t need to make a special time for talking. Any and all talking is good for your child. This includes talking while you dress or bath your baby, talking while you play, singing songs and nursery rhymes, and reading. 

When children hear a lot of different words, they’re likely to learn, understand and use plenty of different words themselves. 

Tune in and respond

The way you talk to your child is important for helping them learn language. 

It’s all about responding to your child when they show interest in something. This starts with tuning in to what your child is interested in or what they’re trying to tell you, and then saying something about it to them. It’s good to leave a gap after you’ve responded to your child. This gives your child time to take in what you’ve said and respond in their own way. 

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