Health Beat – Baby’s first sounds mean more than you know.

Health Beat
Chaffee County Early Childhood Council
October 2013

Baby’s first sounds mean more than you know.

We wait.  We watch. We wonder.  Ready for that first sound that baby makes. “Did she just say mom?”  “That was definitely dad!”  “Aha, he just said grandpa!”  Whatever sound the baby is making, it does mean something.  Every step leading up to those first sounds and every step after is important in the language development of a child.  Supporting your child in language development is easy and makes a significant difference in their speech, thinking, and learning.

It all begins with face-to-face interaction for babies as young as one month old.  Babies love to watch the face of an adult and it is not long before they begin giving back a smile.  Simple facial expressions soon turn into cooing sounds.  When you coo back, the baby then begins to respond.  This is the beginning of interaction and conversation.  It does not matter that there is no sense to it.  For a baby it creates an important human connection.

After a few weeks of coos you will then begin to hear new sounds such as ba ba ba ba or da da da. Repeating these sounds back to baby reinforces their attempts at words and continues to build a relationship with you and a relationship with language.  Not only is taking turns important, but also the ability to see your face and how you are forming new sounds is important.

“I always stress face-to-face interaction with children when speaking,” explains Lyndsay Pulsipher, Director of Avery Parsons Preschool in Buena Vista. “This helps them learn correct articulation from watching how the mouth forms the sounds.”

Reading books to your baby is also an important part of language development.  Not only do babies like to hear your voice and look at the pictures of a book, they are absorbing the sounds you are making and beginning to hear and understand words.  They are also hearing the rhythm of stringing words together.

As basic, repetitive sounds turn into words at about year one. The repetition helps make language development more solid if your baby is hearing those words in return.  And by associating words with objects, your baby begins developing a vocabulary they can use to communicate with you.  They begin making sense of their growing world.

Language development is a very repetitive process because practice builds skills.  The repetition may take place with the baby saying a sound or word over and over or it may be part of taking turns in repeating sounds and words in a mimicking game with your baby.

The more practice and interaction they get, the more your baby begins to understand and continue in their development. It is important to keep in mind that this is more than developing words, it is developing the art of conversation, and the ability to communicate needs and feelings.  It is the basis of socialization.

So take time to make faces with your newborn.  Enjoy those first few sounds. Read books every day. And celebrate the moment when your baby speaks new words.  These are the foundation of communication and conversation, skills your baby will need to succeed.