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How to teach your baby to talk

When you're trying to teach for your baby to talk, it's important to understand that language is not just about speech - it's about communicating.

From day one, your baby is observing and learning from you, even though she may not actually talk for months. She's also constantly letting you know how she feels, even without talking. That's why paying attention and interacting with your child is essential if you want to encourage her to understand, learn, and ultimately talk, in her own words.

Here are tips on teaching baby to talk:

Pay attention

Even though your infant isn't born with the ability to talk, he naturally knows how to make himself understood. Smiling, cooing, pointing and plain old screaming, are all forms of communication. They don't need words to convey a range of needs and emotions, from curiosity or hunger, to delight or discomfort.

Studies show that infants are aware of basic language components like rhythm and cadence even when they're inside the womb. Other studies show that newborn baby brains are sorting and computing language patterns, like the construction of words and sentences, from the day they're born.

Your baby is watching your every move and absorbing information so that, eventually, he can imitate your words, expressions and language. To encourage this process, try to watch, listen and interpret your child's non-verbal signals and react to his needs. He may squirm and make excited noises when he sees you, or reach out with his arms up. Make sure you respond by making eye contact, smiling, or giving him a hug. Your response teaches your infant that this kind of communication is worth the effort, because he's rewarded by your attention and interaction.

Talk a lot

Child development experts say newborns can recognise and respond to parent's voices even inside the womb. So, singing lullabies or talking to your baby, even when you're still pregnant, helps encourage speech development. By 3 months old your baby is usually watching your facial expressions and starting to imitate rudimentary sounds. She may make repetitive cooing or 'sing- song' sounds. You can encourage this first 'baby talk' by talking back to your baby a lot. Experts believe this helps set babies up for success by effectively immersing them in language.

By 6 or 7 months old your baby can probably recognise her own name and babble random syllables like 'da-da-da'. Any sense of meaning or comprehension is unlikely at this stage. However, by 9 months, she may be beginning to grasp the sense of expressions like 'bye-bye', especially if you add a visual cue, like a hand-wave, as you say it.

Do a running commentary

By 12 months, your baby may be able to understand simple commands like 'look at me' and names like 'mama' and 'dada'. One technique to encourage better language skills is called 'self-talk'. This essentially means talking out loud and using short, simple sentences to do a running commentary throughout your day. Announcing that 'daddy is making lunch' or 'mummy is going bye-byes' may feel strange, but experts believe this engages your child's interest and exposes her to many more words than usual. Studies suggest the reward is a wider vocabulary in later life. Another technique is called 'parallel talk', when you mirror what your child is doing with a similar running commentary. By about 18 months, babies can usually point at specific objects and say about 20 simple words, like 'ball', 'cup' or 'teddy'. So, the idea is, you might encourage baby to talk and use more of those words by commenting, 'Baby is playing with teddy'.

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