Speech plays a large role in healthy brain development from birth to age 2. From 12 to 24 months your child is expected to make a 500% increase in vocabulary.
So, how can you encourage speech development in the brain at an early age? Here are some tips and tricks how.
1. Make it fun!
Babies and young children respond best to language that is enthusiastic and exaggerated.
I am a cheerleader, a cartoon character, and occasionally an animal when I talk to my almost two-year-old son. I use my voice in various tones to emphasize the meaning of words and language and it becomes play. Use sound effects, jargon, and song, and talking that is fun.
For example, the word ‘ghost’ to my son isn’t just “ghost”, it’s “ghOOOOOOOOst”, with voice intonation that goes up and down in a spooky effect for the “O” part. Not the typical vocabulary of a one-and-a-half-year-old? Sure. But he learned it, he enjoys saying it, and it contributes to his 500% increase.
Another example for my son (again, not even two years old), is the word ‘delicious’. This is a complex word for such a young child, but he enjoys it and uses it correctly. ‘Delicious’ is a fun word, especially used to describe ice cream. We say it as, “DEEEEE-licious”, with a high pitched emphasis of excitement on the “DE” and a quick finish with the “licious”.
Teaching my son language has been less like teaching, and more like playing. For this reason, I can proudly say that he exceeds most developmental speech milestones for his age.
By two-year-old children should say approximately 50 words and begin using two-word phrases. My son’s vocabulary is closer to 100 words and he regularly uses 2-word phrases because at our house words are fun!
2. Be repetitive.
The best way for babies to learn a new word is through exposure. Repetition is key.
Even when your baby is too young for actual word development, if you want them to acquire words quickly, repeat yourself.
A good rule of thumb is: when introducing a new word, repeat the word 3-5 times per usage. If you’re trying to teach the word ‘apple’, present an apple to your child and repeat the word 3-5 times, following the same annunciation each time; “AAAAA-ple”.
While the word is still new to your child, find more ways to talk about apples. Show them pictures of apples, sing songs, and eat plenty of them. The repetition in different contexts throughout the day will make the word more interesting and meaningful.
Learn to repeat after your child. I may repeat myself 50 times a day, but I repeat after my child 100 times. When your baby even attempts to pronounce a new word, praise and repeat.
For apple, you can say, “Oh APPLE! Good job APPLE!” remembering to emphasize the key word and exaggerating your tone of voice. My son is very talkative for such a young age, and whatever he says, I repeat back to him so that he may hear it more clearly.
While they may know several words, their pronunciation will still be “baby talk”. Repeating them allows your baby to make the connection between what they are saying and how it should actually be said.
3. Talk a lot!
It’s true that the more and the earlier you talk to your infant, the better their speech development will be. Even from birth, talk to your new baby. This is a culmination of making language useful, fun, and providing exposure.
My chatty, almost two-year-old, and I make language exposure easy for my 5-month-old daughter. We are constantly talking; about his favorite shows, food, and playing outside. My son had early language acquisition, but I am confident my daughter will be even more vocal, due to her constant exposure to language.
The more you talk to your baby with enthusiasm, the more you show them that language is fun! They may be small, but your little ones have a lot to say when you encourage them and stimulate that early brain growth!