Every parent waits for this moment like a kid on Christmas morning! Excited, anxious, and oh so curious about what this word will be. During your child's first year of life, they have taken it all in. Soaked up every word you've said like a sponge and now it's their turn to communicate with you. It's one of those parenting moments you live for and hope you don't miss while they are visiting grandma and grandpa or at daycare!
Children learn early on that their voice makes all the big people around them accommodate their needs. Speech, however, is a difficult skill, which requires sharp thinking skills as well as motor coordination. Making our articulators (tongue, teeth, lips, and jaw) move in the correct ways in order to make the words.
Babies learned early on that vocalizations make or don't make things happen. This is the hallmark of communication. Babies tell us very early on, if we listen hard enough, what they need. Research has been done to distinguish different types of cries to mean different things. So your little has technically been communicating with you for quite some time already.
However, if this first word moment hasn't arrived yet, don't worry. Below are some ideas to help your child learn words that will help him/her in this verbal world.
1. Model simple short words and phrases. Toddlers have a tough time isolating a word from a lengthy paragraph of words. Repetition of single words and short phrases is best. Example: Ball. My ball. Where's ball? Get that ball. Go ball.
2. Hold a toy or object next to your face when you say a word. This action gives the child a clear view of your mouth which helps develop oral motor skills necessary to produce words. Get at the same eye level as your child.
3. Respond to gestures. If your child reaches for an object, pick it up and hand it to them while saying the word for the object. Gradually, delay your response allowing your child to try and say the sound or word.
4. Praise all early verbalizations as words. Even if they are unintelligible, this will give them more confidence to try new words or verbalizations.
5. Try not to anticipate your child's every need. Delay a few seconds before picking your child up or handing him/her their desired object.
6. Vocal play with micorophones or paper towel rolls work well. Have your child mimic and echo you.
Remember, all children follow their own developmental timeline, but if you feel your little one is not communicating as effectively as he/she should please call to discuss your concerns with one of our therapists.
*Reference: Super Duper Handouts 2004 Early Language Development Handout #7