Start Social Routines Early To Encourage Language Development

Instagram credit: @k_a_r_everything

Instagram credit: @k_a_r_everything

You may be noticing that your baby is starting to coo, babble, make raspberries, and maybe some other sounds while exploring her mouth. When you hear these noises coming from her cute little lips, make it right back at her. If she coos, you coo. If she babbles, you babble. If she makes a raspberry, you make a raspberry. This is a wonderful way to start reinforcing a baby’s vocal output, as well as begin to demonstrate social and reciprocal play. You want your child to understand that there is a benefit to using his/her voice.  This benefit is that you will reciprocate that action.

For older babies, social games and songs are great ways to emphasize back-and-forth play, as well as reinforce initiating.  For example, while playing peek-a-boo, don’t remove your hands to show your face immediately.  See if your baby will reach for you or vocalize when you “disappear.”  Reinforce his vocalization by showing your face and saying, “peek-a-boo!”  Or, stop your song and movement during “Row, row, row, your boat…”  Once your baby “tells you to continue” by vocalizing, laughing, and/or reaching for you, continue your fun song.

What would your toddler do if you threw off one of his routines? What if he didn’t get his favorite toy during bath time?  Would he reach for it?  Vocalize?  Whine?  Use a word or two?!?  This form of “routine sabotage” is a wonderful way to work on initiating and back-and-forth exchanges with your toddler. Other ways to sabotage familiar routines include:

  • Giving an empty cup instead of filling it with milk/juice
  • Getting your child dressed in a different order than usual (shirt put on first if it’s usually put on last, etc)
  • Not opening a bag, box, or door for your child immediately
  • Stopping a familiar song/nursery rhyme (including movements) in the middle of it

These techniques are very beneficial for stimulating your child’s language development.  If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech/language development or are interested in more stimulation activities, talk to your pediatrician or contact a speech-language pathologist.

— Sara Lipson, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist

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