Music can help your baby with their speech, and particularly coming to classes each week, encourages uninterrupted attention and a lot of face to face attention with you and your baby.Why is this important regarding speech? Read on ….

Lots of loving, interesting, two-way talk is the best overall help that you can give to your baby’s language development, but there is talk which is positively useful and talk which is less useful. Consider the following suggestions:

Talk directly to your baby. He cannot pay attention and listen carefully to general conversation. If he is in a room with his whole family and everybody is talking, he will be lost in a sea of sound. You say something and he looks at you, only to find that your face is turned away to his sister. Sister replies, brother interrups with a half finished sentence that ends in an expressive shrug, and meanwhile somebody else has started a side conversation and the television has been switched on. Third or fourth children, especially in families where the children are born close together, are often actually delayed in their language learning because they get so little opportunity for uninterrupted on-to-one conversation with adults. Even if you are coping with a baby, a toddler and a four year old who never stops asking “why?”, try to find at least some times when you can talk to the baby alone.

Don’t expect him to learn much language from strangers, or as much from a succesion of caregivers, as he will from you and other people who are special to him. Babies learn the meanings of words by hearing them over and over again in different sentences and with varying tones of voice, facial expressions and body language from the speaker. The more familiar he is with the person who is talking, the more likely he is to understand. Even at the toddler stage he may be quite unable to understand a stranger’s words because the accompanying expressions and tones of voice are strange to him.

Think carefuly before you employ a caregiver who is not fluent in your language. A nanny or housekeeper cannot model good speech for your baby unless she is fluent herself. If everything else about her seems exactly right, you might consider employing her on the understanding that she uses her own language with your baby who will therefore be brought up bilingually.

Make sure that you use the key labelling words when you talk. The baby is going to single out label words which continually recur in different sentences like that label word shoes. So when the two of you are hunting under the bed, make sure that you say “oh where are your shoes?” rather than,”Oh where are they?” The child’s own name is a vital label for him to learn. He will not think of himself as “me” or “I”. English grammer makes pronouns extremely difficult for a child to learn because the correct word depends on who is speaking. I am “me” to myself, but I am “you” to you. So at this stage, you use his name label too. Don’t feel embarrassed because it is “baby talk”. “Where’s a biscuit for John?”  you can say as you rummage in the biscuit tin. It will mean much more to him than, “Where’s one for you?”

If you pretend not to understand your baby unless he says something “properly”, you are doing worse than boring your  baby; you are cheating him. He has communicated with you; said something and made you understand his meaning. He has therefore used a piece of language. If you refuse to acknowledge it, you spoil the flow of his language in favour of mere words. Furthermore he may not be able to produce the “correct” word, because that word has not evolved for him yet. If his own word is the best that he has to offer, rejecting it will hinder rather than help him. After all, it is pleasure, affection and excitement that motivate early speech. Refusing him his bottle until he says “milk” instead of “bah-boo” will make him frustrated and cross. You are more likely to get tears than words.

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Source: Penelope Leach – an expert in the field of child care and  development

“he” applies to “he” or “she” above

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