Your Newborn and Vowels
Do you think it’s too early to start teaching your baby vowels? Think again! Although it will be quite a while before he or she learns them in the conventional sense, speech language pathologists (SLPs) recommend that you begin encouraging your infant to make vowel sounds as early as birth. Because your baby is born with an innate desire to communicate with you and others, this shouldn’t be a difficult task. In fact, your child’s language acquisition is likely to be one of the most fascinating things you witness in your lifetime. Read on for tips on how to encourage your baby’s speech and language development right from the start!
- Focus on Phonemes
Don’t worry; knowing exactly what a phoneme is really isn’t necessary as this is something that comes natural to most parents. Simply begin making simple vowel sounds like “aaaah,” “eee,” “ohhhh,”… you get the point. If you feel silly doing this, either embrace it as a feeling you’ll experience many times throughout your life as a parent, or rely on some nursery rhymes for help such as the classic “Old MacDonald.” You’ll no doubt be able to get some vowel-consonant blends in too as you help your little one learn to say “ma ma,” “da da,” and “ba ba.”
- Use Body Language
Whether or not you decide to jump on the “baby signs” bandwagon, your baby will no doubt benefit from your use of body language, such as eye contact, imitation, and gestures. Try mimicking the expressions your baby makes to let him know that you’re aware of his attempts to communicate. Knowing that his efforts are being noticed will encourage your youngster to continue attempting new communication strategies, including making sounds and eventually talking!
- Talk Her Ears Off
With any luck, she’ll be talking your ears off soon, so gab it up while you still have a chance to get a word in edgewise. Experts say that the earlier and more often you engage your little one in conversation, the better she’ll be able to grasp the art of human conversation. Don’t worry if she doesn’t understand every word at first. Just hearing the rhythm and intonation of your voice helps her absorb the natural cadence of the language—not to mention the fact that the more she associates your words and tone of voice with objects, ideas, and feelings, the faster her internal lexicon will grow. Once she starts speaking, you’ll be amazed at the number of different words she’s amassed.
As you attempt to provide your baby with the most stimulating and nurturing environment possible for her language development to blossom, you should also keep in mind that every child develops language at their own unique pace. The strategies listed above should be utilized in a fun and light-hearted manner, and never forced. If it turns out that your child does end up being a late talker despite your efforts, don’t worry. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s an underlying problem to blame; your child may just be taking her time and waiting until the moment is right for her. Until then, enjoy the quiet, and if it helps put your mind to rest, talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have concerning your child’s language acquisition.