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The Development of Language: What Parents Should Know

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Babies come into the world with the ability to learn any language they are exposed to with the early years being the easiest time to pick up on language comprehension and production. From before they are even born, babies are exposed to language and as they transition from womb to world they begin to make sense of how language works.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers?

Talk to your baby.

Tell them what to expect. Not only is this respectful, but it helps your baby learn and understand language in a natural and meaningful way. Telling your baby what to expect can look like, “I’m going to pick you up now so we can go get a fresh diaper”. As a newborn, your baby won’t understand what your words mean yet, but over time when you pair the same words with the same actions, they will start to associate the two together and eventually will anticipate what will happen because they have been well prepared.

Receptive language develops before language production. Babies understand what we are saying before they have the skills to speak the words themselves.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers?

  • Expect that your baby will understand you before they begin talking.

  • Model correct speaking and avoid “baby talk”.

  • Model respectful and appropriate communication skills. Examples include: eye contact, turn taking in conversation, gestures and facial expressions.

Babies have a very difficult time tuning out other sounds in their environment to focus on human voices, and go through a phase where they can’t differentiate between the two.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers?

Be conservative and purposeful about background noises in your baby’s environment. Many adults enjoy music or the tv on in the background while they work or clean but it can be very distracting for babies and toddlers who get overstimulated very quickly and who are trying to learn the nuances of language. As much as possible, a quiet environment is ideal. Music has many benefits for children and adults but using it for small amounts of time vs. as background noise is better.

Babies experiment with language and use language to communicate.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers?

  • Respond to your baby’s attempts at language.

  • Put yourself in your baby’s shoes and consider the vulnerability of testing out verbal language for the first time. If and when your baby mispronounces a word, be compassionate in your response and instead of pointing out their error, repeat the word using the correct pronunciation. Over time they will work it all out. Example: Baby- “Boo car”. Parent/Caregiver- “You saw a blue car drive by”.

  • Repeat and expand on your child’s attempts at language. (See example above)

Although much of development in infancy and toddlerhood is predictable and has a definite pattern to it, each child is unique and follows their own rhythm and timetable.

What does this mean for parents and caregivers?

Be patient. Enjoy the process of your child’s language development unfolding. Ensuring your baby feels secure in your relationship will allow them the freedom to experiment with language when they are ready.

If you are looking for individual help CLICK HERE to book a consult today.

Happy Baby

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