Talking to your baby

by Dawn Kelly. Babies are communicating with us from the moment they are born.

Father and baby playing


Babies begin to communicate the second they are born - usually with a scream and a cry! However, it's not just about verbal communication, but those harder-to-detect, non-verbal cues they give us to say that they are tired, grumpy or ready to play.

Have you noticed how your baby looks away when they begin to get tired, suggesting that they don't want to play anymore?

If we pay close attention to our babies, we will begin to detect these tiny nuances and begin to understand what they are attempting to tell us.

How CBeebies can help

Many experts believe that teaching your baby to sign is a great way to help communication and reduce the likelihood of tears and tantrums.

It's very annoying when a little one cannot make themselves understood and is incredibly frustrating for them. However, if they are able to do an action with their 'word', then you are much more likely to understand them and generally encourage conversation.

Something Special is one of the best TV shows for helping you and your baby learn sign language. The gestures are simple and often memorable. It's amazing how quickly even young babies of 6 months or so pick up on these signs.

Once you've learnt a few - such as 'lunch', 'sleep', 'milk' - you can incorporate them into your day-to-day routine and interaction with your child. When your little one is due to eat, you sign and say 'lunch' (it doesn't matter if it's breakfast or dinner - that can come later).

The important thing is that there is a gesture that matches a sound and you baby will soon pick up on this. When they are hungry they will say an undoubtedly indistinguishable word - but if accompanied by the sign, you'll know exactly what they mean. There's something very special about understanding your baby's first words.

How to make a magic moment

Conversations are made up of people taking turns to talk.

Babies as young as three months can already join in through simple turn-taking. You say something and pause. They come back with sounds and gestures, then they pause.

And if you stick your tongue out, then put it back and wait, that they will also copy. Amazing!

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Expert opinion

I'm sure you've noticed how avidly your baby watches you while you feed or change them.

They really listen and pay attention to your words or singing as you care for them, so make the most of these moments and chat or sing to your baby as much as possible. They absolutely adore being the centre of your attention.

Dawn Kelly, Baby & Child Development Expert, (RGN, RSCN, BSc, PGDipHV, PGDipEd, RNT, PGDipRes)

Top tips

  • Amazingly, babies have already worked out the basics of a conversation.When you are close to your baby, make sure you have their attention.Use ordinary words, keeping it simple, with short sentences.Repeat what you say, with slight variations.Be expressive with your tone and facial expression.

Parent's tale

I've only been a mum for 17 months however my best top tip has to be to speak to your baby, literally all the time.

Tell him or her what you are doing and generally just chat about your day and anything you happen to be doing, or anything you observe them doing, all the time. It has made a huge difference in my son's language skills. He can now say around 100 words and understands so much!

I remember before he was born reading that it helps to talk to your baby at all stages, no matter how much or little they understand. If you are changing their nappy - tell them. If you are going to bath or feed them - tell them how and what and where. I am certain it has made a difference and my son now is so eager to talk and master the art of speech - it's amazing! Don't feel stupid when you're doing it - you are helping your child learn and their brain grow and develop!!

Thea, From Linlithglow

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