It seemed like it was just another night of mummy duty when Catherine woke up at 3am to her crying infant, who was hungry for milk. After an agonising and sleepy feed, she put little Amy down in her cot, hoping that her little baby will quickly fall asleep so that Catherine could go back to dreamland. But little Amy wasn’t quite ready to go to bed and she still wanted to play… After cooing and soothing her, little Amy mumbled what seemed like her first words, “Ma…ma…”.
Catherine couldn’t believe what she heard, and as much as she knew that it could possibly be a coincidence, or baby talk, she was moved to tears. “Did my baby just say her first words?”
Your Infant’s First Words
Have you noticed how your baby responds when you call his or her name or when you try to ask them to complete simple tasks like waving hello? From birth, babies are actually listening in closely to every single conversation and sounds around them while trying to make sense of them. By 6 months, your little ones would already start to make connections with the various terms in conversations and distinguish them from other sounds that they hear. Gradually, they will start experimenting with making sounds of their own, bring them much closer to saying their very first word.
Even though your little ones may not be able to speak much to you, studies have shown that the more terms your child hears, the more terms they will use. The best way then, to help your little ones say their first words is to talk to them – even if they are one-sided conversations!
Did you know that babies’ first words are often uttered without them necessarily knowing what these terms actually mean? They utter them possibly because you have repeated it to them constantly and show cues in which their coos and babbles are rewarded with attention, smiles, or even food. But when they start making connections to actions and objects, that is where the magic is!
“Ma… Ma… Da… Da…” your infant’s first words are critical milestones. In the first three years, a baby’s brain develops rapidly and your little ones’ speech development depends heavily on your interactions with them.
Talking to Your Infants – Why Is It important?
Talking to your babies and young children is extremely essential because it builds a strong foundation for language and communication skills. Chatting to them enables them to understand the rules and rhythms of the English language at an early age. Besides that, it also helps develop the brain of young children and can aid them to do better when they are in school.
If you take a step further, you may also wish to explore talking to your baby in your mother tongue! Bilingual children have access to new global viewpoints and a wide variety of new experiences as they speak more than one language!
Did you know that babies tend to say more or less about the same things, across all languages? They usually prefer to say terms related to sounds, social routines, games, body parts, and the important people in their life. It is interesting as research has found that babies tend to learn terms that enable them to interact and communicate with their parents and their caregivers. According to research, experts found that the 10 most frequent first English words of babies are: mummy, daddy, bye, ball, hi, no, dog, baby, banana, woof woof. Since your little ones yearn so much to communicate with you, it would simply be nice to reciprocate and in doing so, encourage them to speak!
The key to encouraging your baby to speak is to talk to them – as often as possible – as language acquisition begins with receptive language.
How to Talk to Infants?
Talking to your infants does not necessarily need to be a big deal. Just like how you would sometimes talk to your unborn baby in your stomach, that is simply how you can approach speaking to your little one.
Narrate Everyday Activities
You can verbalise what you are doing at home, “Mummy is preparing breakfast, so that I will have energy to play with you later…” Or when you are out and you notice your little one pointing to the sky, you could say, “Wow, today’s a great sunny day isn’t it? The clouds are looking so fluffy in the blue sky… I wonder what’s the temperature like today?”
You may even seem like a crazy person, but it really doesn’t matter because babies love being spoken to! More importantly, you need to ensure that you also listen and pay attention to your little one’s reactions. If your little one reacts with a babble, make eye contact to show that you are listening and smile. Doing so encourages your baby and he or she will be more excited to try again.
Sing Songs and Read to Them
Children’s songs and catchy nursery rhymes tend to have silly repetitions of words and phrases and can be extremely useful to help them remember these terms.
Children who are read to daily also tend to have a wider vocabulary as compared to those who are not read to. Reading to your little ones also help them to learn sequences of words and the various context in which terms are to be used. The key is that you should be as dramatic as possible when you read to them, ensuring that you use a variety of expressions, maintain eye contact, and listen out for their cues. Sometimes they may repeat the sounds you make and you should quickly acknowledge and encourage them for doing so.
Use Names rather than Pronouns
To help infants and little children make connections to words, you may just want to name the people you are referring to, rather than use pronouns. For instance, rather than saying that “This bear is yours” you could say, “This bear is Amy’s.” Doing so is clearer and easier for little babies to understand.
Tune into Your Infants
You’ll need to be present whenever you talk to babies because they can be easily distracted by other sounds. A television in the background or a ringing handphone may take their attention away from you when you are speaking to them.
If your baby looks like he or she is feeling tired, grumpy, or restless, then you should choose another time to speak. Pick another time when your little one seems to be chirpier and more responsive to speak to them. Sometimes, an infant’s personality may also affect how responsive they are to you speaking to them.
If we look back at little Amy’s first words, her second, third, and fourth terms may come just a little more quickly if Catherine continues to harness the Power of Talking with Infants and talk to her baby as often as she can!
Infant and Toddler Programme @ Mulberry Learning
Animated songs and story-telling sessions capture your little one’s attention and stimulate speech development.During Music StimulationTM time, we use music to spark connections in infants’ brains, stimulating their creativity, spatial intelligence, emotional and cognitive development. From cooing and babbling, to saying their first words, we, at Mulberry Learning help your child build language foundations early.
Mulberry Learning uses Experiential Learning as the main approach for infants and toddlers as it has been deemed by experts as one of the most fun, engaging, and effective method to learn new concepts. At Mulberry Learning, children are encouraged to be mini-explorers, to express and communicate their reflections and experiences, while having lots of fun in the process!
Find out more about our Infant Care Programme, and for older children, our Bilingual Preschools or our first Chinese Preschool at Fusionopolis!
About Mulberry Learning
Established in 2006, Mulberry Learning is an award-winning Reggio-inspired preschool with 11 locations around Singapore. Mulberry Learning is the world’s first and only preschool network certified by the USA for the Habits of MindTM framework, and its curriculum has been voted as “Singapore’s Best Holistic Learning Programme” for 3 years running by leading parenting publications.
Register Your Interest to find out how Mulberry Learning can help your little ones become a confident communicator, independent thinker, and a passionate lifelong learner.