Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Building Your Vocabulary: Baby Talk

I love listening to my children learn to talk. From the first coos and babbles to hearing "Mama!" spoken recognizably to my toddlers mixed-up sentences, the sound of their voices is a delight to my ears. In my experience, every child learns to talk a different rate. In some families children are very slow to move beyond the basics, while other families have non-stop talkers. My parents love to share about all their experiences with me as a very young talker. (I am their first-born, so it is much easier to remember.) A one year old with an impressive vocab of 40ish words, who would talk to anyone who took a moment to listen. Neither of my children have been quite so voluble as that, but they have a good grasp of a variety of words, and Ethan can speak in sentences (not grammatically correct of course). Considering that I am their mother, and that their father also has natural ease of conversation, I am not surprised. It seems to be in the genes.

Recently someone made a comment about my child's speech. They were impressed with Ethan's level of conversation and made the observation that I must never have talked "baby talk" to him. The comment surprised me! Why would it make a difference?

As I think about the massive amounts of parental advice and training books on the market, I recall seeing articles from certain doctors and therapists who encourage speaking to your child in full sentences, and being very careful not to use any baby babble. There are others who encourage babbling, music, poetry, reading to your kids, sign language, and a lot of other methods for teaching our babies how to communicate. Hearing tests, toddler speech therapy, and families who are bilingual are addressed all over the mom blog world. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a different result. And most kids do learn to talk, eventually. So what I have done to ensure my children learn to talk? Honestly, it is pretty straight forward, I did what came naturally to me.

From the womb I talk to them, not because a book or doctor told me too, but because I wanted to. It is more often a conversation with myself that I sometimes direct at the baby. "Your big brother made such a mess? Are you going to do that too?"

From the time they are born I talk to them, because I enjoy talking. It is not a conversation describing everything or teaching. It is mostly observing, admiring, and thinking out loud.

From birth I have read to my kids, because I love to read. I collected story books, and usually read several right before naptime each day. Occasionally, Ethan decides to "read" a book to me. His rendition of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" cracks me up.

Both Roman and I are careful to use 'please' and 'thank you' when we take something from our children (even something they are not supposed to have). Both Ethan and Saoirse learned to say 'thank you' very quickly. 'Please' took a little longer.

And I talked baby talk with them. I still do. Short sentences, incorrect word order, raspberries, tongue clicks, babbling. You name it, I do it. The process of learning our language takes time, and I like hearing their mixed up speech. Eventually, we will teach them the rules of grammar, and boundaries of speech. Right now they are trying new words and seeing what happens, and it is way too cute to correct.

Poem: Book Learning A few thoughts on the glut of parenting books.

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