Learning to talk goes through a series of developmental stages, just like learning to walk.
Talking is one of the communication skills from the ‘expressive language’ category. It’s all the sounds a baby makes and gestures they use to communicate.
Expressive language starts in the early months when they make cooing noises using vowel sounds, before they start blending them together with consonants. Then come single words, then two words joined before they move to using sentences in their second or third year.
Ask the whānau:
What sounds have you noticed baby making recently?
How does baby let you know how they’re feeling or what they want?
Are they using any gestures?
Babies can have a large ‘receptive’ vocabulary long before they speak. This means they understand many more words and actions than they can say.
This comes from parents and whānau paying attention to baby and the things baby is noticing around them, and giving baby the names for those things.
Babies then learn the words that match the things they see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
- What language does baby hear spoken the most?
- Has baby said any recognisable words?
In the SKIP Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 2 there are examples of ways mums and dads can encourage baby’s language development (page 18) using the following techniques.
‘Parallel talk’ means describing what baby is doing while they are doing it, almost like giving a running commentary. For example, parents might say, ‘You’re reading your book about dogs, and you’re turning the pages.’
‘Self-talk’ is like parallel talk, but instead of describing what baby is doing, parents are talking about what they’re doing — for example, ‘Dad is making a cup of tea for him and some toast for you.’
‘Stretch talk’ means affirming what baby has tried to say and then adding something else to baby’s attempts at words. For example, if baby said ‘Woof’ after seeing the neighbour’s dog, dad would respond with, ‘Yes, there’s old Tama, that noisy kurī.’
- Shall we practise these now?
Parents sometimes feel a bit self-conscious talking when baby doesn’t reply, but they’ll get used to it, and it really is helping baby’s language skills grow.
Hearing well is important for developing communication skills, too. Show whānau how they can do little informal hearing checks at home, and if they have any concerns, give them up-to-date local information about where they can get baby’s hearing checked.
How does this relate to the SKIP resources?
Baby Wall Frieze - Whakarongo mai - listen to me
Six things children need - Te kōrero me te whakarongo - talking and listening