11 - 12 Months

5 tips to encourage talking in babies

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You can make an important difference in your baby’s early attempts to talk by doing these 5 simple things.

1. Slow down and ‘OWL’

Babies process language much more slowly than adults, and need extra time to think, react, and respond. Speech and language experts recommend ‘Owling’—Observing, Waiting, Listening—when your baby is trying to talk. It might look like this:

  1. Your baby says a partial word like ‘da.’ Observe their gestures and expressions, look at their surroundings, and consider what you think they’re talking about.
  2. Even if you know they mean ‘dog’ or ‘doggy,’ try to wait. Experts recommend waiting 10 seconds, which can feel like a long time, but your baby’s brain is working hard to form that word. If you wait, they may try it again. In this case, ‘waiting’ means: stop talking, lean forward, and look at your baby expectantly.
  3. Next, listen to whatever sound they make. Even if you know what they’re saying, try not to interrupt or fill in silences. You can ‘shape’ their word by saying the full word for them, then waiting again. If your baby says ‘ca’ you can say ‘car’ for them. Try to limit your language when your baby is actively trying to speak.

2. Expand a known word’s meaning

When you’re confident your baby knows a word and is using it regularly, you can help them start to understand it in context by ‘expanding’ it. For example, when they say ‘ca’ or ‘car,’ you can expand the word’s meaning by using it in a phrase like ‘fast car, vroom! Look at the fast car go! Fast car!’

3. Get the most out of reading

Reading to your baby supports their language development, but it may only last a few minutes at this age. That’s okay—they still get a lot out of it. Don’t feel like you need to finish a book or even read every word; instead, follow your baby’s lead and interest. This may mean spending time describing and observing a particular picture they’re interested in rather than finishing the book. Label the picture with a word or two, then wait, giving your baby a chance to repeat the word.

4. Talk about everyday things

Studies show that the number of words a baby understands relates to how often they’ve heard high-frequency words that describe everyday things—objects, people, places, and actions. As much as you can, get down to eye level and show interest in what your baby is doing, looking at, and playing with—and label it. (You can engage them in what you’re doing, too.) Use these key words often, and don’t limit them just to nouns, verbs, and adjectives; use prepositions (in, out), interjections (uh-oh, whee!), and adverbs (up, down) too.

5. Let your baby fill in the gaps

Soon, your baby may be able to fill in gaps when you leave off the last word of a well-known book page or song lyric. Even if they aren’t talking yet you can start now with a song your baby knows. For example, sing ‘Twinkle twinkle little…’ then pause, and observe what your baby does. Even if they make a sound that doesn’t sound like ‘star,’ they’re still beginning to understand that a missing word belongs there.

Curious when your baby might say their first word? Learn when most babies start talking and what ‘counts’ as a first word.

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Posted in: 11 - 12 Months, 13 - 15 Months, Lovevery App, Language, Speech Development, Babbling, Literacy, Child Development

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