The skills that a child develops before starting to speek are called prelinguistic, or prespeech skills.
Parents usually start to notice delays in their child’s speech and language after the age of one, in other words, around the time when they start to expect to hear their child’s first words.
But did you know that speech and language starts to develop long before your child says his or her first word? So there are a things that you can do to start boosting your child’s speech and language before your child even turns one!
Let’s look at some goals that you can work on with your baby!
The first goal is to establish eye contact.
This may seem pretty obvious, but it is the first area where you might notice a delay with your baby, so it’s very important. Babies usually start to make direct eye contact from about 6 – 8 weeks, but they actually notice you making eye contact from just a few days after being born!
So how can you encourage this? Well, eye gaze with a young baby is probably not going to last more than a few seconds, and initially won’t happen if your baby is hungry or upset.
Choose a time when your baby is calm and happy. Hold your baby about 30 cm away from your face, then wait for baby to look at your face.
When baby does, widen your eyes a bit and smile, talk, sing or even pull faces at your baby!
If your baby isn’t making eye contact by about 3 months of age and you’re worried, mention it to your pediatrician.
This is just such a vital prespeech/ prelinguistic skill, I could write this whole post just about turn taking!
Why. you may ask? Well, it’s the basis of conversation. To have a conversation, there has to be more than one partner. If one of the partners talks all the time, without allowing the other to take a turn, it’s not a functional conversation, it’s just a soliloquy!
Turn taking starts out with your baby making eye contact, responding to your interactions. As your baby grows older, your baby may respond to your interactions by smiling and making sounds. Later, the sounds will become more complex and your baby will start laughing and showing more expressions.
Let’s talk about encouraging turn taking!
You can do this by doing what you’ve already been doing with eye contact: smile, talk and sing to your baby! Little games are also important for developing turn taking: Peek-a-boo, How big is baby, etc. Peek-a-boo is a bit easier than How big is baby, because all it requires for your baby’s turn is that they smile or laugh!
When you and your baby are able to both focus your attention on something, we call it joint attention.
If you point at something and your baby looks, your baby is using this prelinguistic skill!
Why is this skill important? Because it means that you and your baby have a reference about which you can communicate! This helps with bonding, and is an important factor in communication.
Joint attention starts to be shown after about six months old.
To help joint attention to develop, there are a few things that you can do: Read a book with your baby. Make sure that there are bright colours with lots of contrast, and big pictures. Play with toys together with your child, like building towers, kissing a teddy bear, throwing water out of cups in the bath. Comment about what you are doing and point to the objects.
Causality is an extremely important skill to have before language can be developed. When a child realises that they can do something and something will happen as a result of their action, they are showing the prelinguistic skill of causality. For example, your child may hit a tower of blocks, and know that because of that action, there will be a big crash!
This is so important, because building on that knowledge, a baby will start to understand that, if they express something by pointing or gesturing, they will get what they are pointing at. Later, this leads to your baby’s expressing needs and feelings verbally.
To help this very important concept to develop, give your baby plenty opportunities to learn about cause and effect! React to their expressions and vocalizations. Play games where they can see a result from their actions: Build towers that they can knock over, play peek-a-boo, splash in the bath, help them to turn over pages in books.
Remember to not only talk about what you’re doing, but also to listen to and watch your baby and give them time to respond!
To learn more about Prelinguistic Skills, http://beforefirstwords.upf.edu/ has some wonderful information!
If you’re struggling to find time to just enjoy bonding with your baby, 3 Tips for Busy Moms has some ideas for you.
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