How to Enhance Your Baby’s Language Development

How to Enhance Your Baby’s Language Development

Baby language development

We wait on pins and needles for that first word. What will it be? When will it be? Your baby’s language will be individual. Language development does depend on your child, just as any other skill. All of my children were ahead of the average in their language skills, but other skills varied. My son was always a very early “large motor skills” boy. My daughters were more of a “fine motor skills” type. They each had their early/late skills in both categories, but their areas of “expertise” have been in those departments. You might find your baby is ahead in language skills, average, or even behind with no concerns. McKenna was very late in walking, my latest walker, and yet is my most naturally athletic child today.

While language does depend on the child, there is much you can do to influence it. Just like giving your child tummy time helps lead to crawling, practicing language skills will help your child develop language skills earlier.

This is an interesting topic, though. I have a good friend I went to Jr. High, High School, and College with. We both majored in English, though she took the teacher route and I the technical writing route. I mention her often; she also does Babywise. Her son also has very advanced language skills. We often talk about influence over children’s language development. We wonder how much influence we have over it and how much is just the child. I do think there are things you can do to enhance your child’s ability. On Becoming Babywise II has a chapter on language development (Appendix A). Here are their thoughts along with mine.

Tips for Enhancing a Baby’s Language Development

  • Babytalk. Babywise says this isn’t necessary, and I completely agree. It is not natural for me to do babytalk, so I have never done it. I am somewhat of a “grammar nazi” (earned that title in college). I speak correctly and for the most part in complete sentences. I pay attention to things of importance to me. For example, I encourage the use of antecedents in my son’s speech (an antecedent is the noun used before the pronoun; the pronoun refers to the antecedent). You don’t have to be obsessed with grammar; my good friend isn’t. She claims to not care about grammar, but she always speaks and writes correctly. My point is to speak in full sentences. Call words what they are really called. Don’t call the bottle a “baba” because your baby does. Call it a bottle. Children learn language from you, so if you don’t speak correctly, it will likely take them longer to do so.
  • Talk. Talk to your child. Tell him what you are doing, what you see, how you are feeling, etc. And remember, you are the example. Your child is looking to you to learn his vocabulary, so only say things you want him saying. When your child communicates as best he can, you can repeat it the correct way. However, don’t do it in an annoying, corrective way. My son will say he wants something and I will say, “Do you want your trucks out Brayden?” He will then say, “Yes, I want my trucks out” (or whatever his language ability equivalent is.” This can get funny when your child uses irregular verbs. For example, he says, “Mama, I am hungry.” I say, “You are hungry?” “Yes, I are hungry.” These are moments I love :).
  • Read. I am a huge proponent of reading. I have already done a post on it: The Value of Reading
  • Expand. I talked about this under the talk bullet, but wanted to reiterate. When your child says a sentence incompletely, restate it correctly, but always in a way promoting conversation, not a way of criticizing.
  • Sign Language. I do this with my kids. Here is the post on it: Sign Language
  • Repeat. I will repeat a word my child is showing interest in. Today I was reading a book with Kaitlyn about baby animals. When she saw the chicken page, she gHow to Enhance Your Baby's Language Development | language development | babyot excited (for some odd reason). She was interested. I repeated the name of the animal and the sound it makes over and over. She wanted to know. Take advantage of the interest. As they learn words, they will often say them over and over, and delight in you joining in.
  • Respond. When your child communicates with you, respond. Let him know you understood and show interest in it.
  • Expectations. I expect Kaitlyn (11 months) to communicate with me. If it is a word she can say or sign, I require her to say or sign it. She loves communicating, so this is no problem. I also require this of my son. He will be resistant at times, especially now that baby sister gets what she wants without communicating as well as he does. He likes to point and grunt (is it a male thing? Only kidding–sort of 😉 ). I can read the body language of both kids very well. I know exactly what they want, but I still require communication. When I see Kaitlyn “eye-ing” the bananas, I don’t give her some. I ask her if she wants a banana, and she signs banana to me. If she wants something she isn’t able to say, I say the word a lot and emphasize how to ask for it. Someday she will get it.
  • Example. Be an example of everything you want of your child. This applies to all areas of life, but since we are talking about language development, I will focus on that. Read if you want your child to read. Speak correctly if you want your child to do so. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ if you want those words included in your child’s vocabulary.
  • Relax. BW says to relax. Your child will develop language on his time table. You do want to be aware of milestones so you can know if your child is on track. Talk to your pediatrician about concerns. I know moms who have taken their children to speech pathologist and language delays were quickly fixed. But have appropriate expectations for your child’s language development, keep the doctor in the loop, and then relax and wait for baby to talk when he is ready to talk.

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5 thoughts on “How to Enhance Your Baby’s Language Development”

  1. Hi Val,Thank you so much for your prompt advice on this topic!Incidentally, do you have any advice on the type of programmes for toddlers to watch? I am hoping to get some biblical and educational programmes. You don’t need to reply here if you wish to make this topic a blog. But pls do not feel obligated to do so.

  2. I don’t really have experience with many biblical programs. I do know of The Living Scriptures ( They are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka LDS and Mormon). But they do have just Bible videos. You could google Bible videos and see what suits your preferences. I like the shows shown on PBS for educational TV. I love Curious George–it focuses on math and science usually. That is one of my son’s favorites. I also really like a new show out this year called Super Why. It is a show abotu reading. I love it because they use a lot of silence after they ask a questions, giving the child plenty of time to think of the answer. It is kind of awkward at first, but it is great wait time. Clifford is another good one that focusses on interpersonal relationships and moral issues (lying, stealing, etc.). Dragon Tales is pretty good and is also about interpersonal relationships, especially within a family dynamic.My son also likes Bob the Builder and Thomas and Friends. Oh, and Elmo’s World on Sesame Street. They they also have Signing Time about sign language. Something I like about PBS is that the commercials are very minimal–they are just mentions of sponsors of the shows rather than a 30-60 second commercial selling something to your child. You can also just buy them on DVD without commercials between.

  3. Do you have any advice on how to teach your child (my daughter is 8 months old) foreign languages? My husband and I think it would be a great benefit for her to speak at least 2 languages fluently but are not sure how to go about teaching her. I’ve started with the baby einstein’s “language nursery” dvd. Do you have any other recommendations? Thank you!

  4. I wish I had good advice because it would mean that I was doing it myself! ;)If you both speak the same language fluently, I would have days, or hours, that you speak only that language at home. If only you speak a language, you can do that when DH isn’t around. If he does, he could work on it, though I imagine that would be less effective because he wouldn’t be around as much (typically).One thing for bilingual children like this is that they will sometimes get their sentences mixed up, so they would say a sentence in both Spanish and English. I don’t think this is any reason not to teach your child two languages, just something to be aware of. At 8 months, you could learn what certain things are called in another language if you don’t know and just say those words. It wouldn’t get her fluent, but it would do something.One of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, so that is why I think something like “Spanish only” day could work well.

  5. My son just turned 1 and he doesn't say much as far as actual words- maybe 10. However, he babbles constantly in his "own personal language". I'm not truly concerned about his language because I know every baby has their own time table. I am doing all the things you mention here, but he just doesn't seem to want to learn new words. I've also been reading to him since birth, but the last couple months it's gotten hard. He is a VERY busy little boy – 5 mo crawler 9 mo walker, and very very good with fine motor too. He really does not like sitting to read a book! He will flip through one on his own (very quickly) but he does NOT like sitting for a long period with me to read. Is this just his stage or should I expect more? To clarify, he is a very well- behaved boy and sits quietly other times


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