Grunt, Babble, Coo: What’s your baby saying to you?

istock_babynoiseIn Books for Babies we get to hear all kinds of babbling, giggling, coos, cries, and shrieking. Mostly from the babies of course. And it’s a lot of fun to see all the ways that babies try to communicate with us. It takes a while for us to learn what they want to tell us, and even longer for these new people to learn how to talk the way we do.

All babies are different, of course, but here are a few tips that I’ve learned in my years with this program.

  • Crying – You might hear that babies have different types of cries for when they are hungry, lonely, scared, etc. Lots of babies do have different cries that mean different things, but some don’t. Also, there is no international baby language, so your baby’s hungry cry might not sound anything like another baby’s hungry cry.
  • Speech development – Speech sounds are not so easy to make, and some are harder than others. Babies will start babbling after only a few months, but certain sounds will actually take years of practice and muscle growth before your child can say them clearly. Alberta Health Services has a great checklist here: http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/documents/talk-box-speech-sounds-checklist.pdf
  • Substitute sounds – Just because your baby is saying “Ba! Ba! Ba!” does not mean they are trying to tell you about something starting with “Ba.” Babies aren’t born with a thesaurus to get around those sounds they can’t say yet. So, also pay attention to your baby’s body language, where they are looking, and every other clue you have, to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you.
  • Learning Multiple Languages – Babies can learn to understand a number of different languages at once, but with more speech sounds to learn they might start talking a little later.

Remember, learning language with your baby is like making music together or dancing; the communication has to go both ways. It is important that they hear you talk (and sing), but it’s just as important for you to listen to your baby and watch for their reactions and signals. In the beginning you can only recognize each other’s happy and unhappy noises, but you’ll learn from each other and fill in all those other details as you go.

If you would like more information about our Books for Babies program, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca

Making Sense of Babbling

Baby-babble

Playing with language is something that babies from all cultures, and from all languages, experiment with naturally. Many of the little rhymes we sing to children, remembered from our own childhoods or learned new, don’t appear to make sense. They can sound like baby babble.

Although the actual words may not make sense, using different muscles while forming new sounds is all very important to building early language skills. Understanding communication between people is also happening regardless of the noise the baby makes. When you say something to your baby, and your body language reflects an open, caring and loving feeling, your baby will respond by trying to mimic your sounds and also your body language.

Here is a rhyme that always reminds me exactly of babies babbling:

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah raffie, ah raffie
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

For actions to this rhyme, you can try patting your hands on your lap for each ram sam sam, making circle motions with your hands moving around each other for each goolie goolie, and raising your hands in the air for raffie raffie.

Those are all simple motions for small ones to copy. You can make your own movements for any rhyme, just be consistent – your baby will be following along with you.

As a Rhymes that Bind program facilitator, it is very rewarding to see children and their parents building this relationship through the earliest stages of communication. The parents not only experience it first hand, but also by witnessing the other parents and babies in the room who are enjoying the experience.

Building language is powerful and hard work. The next time you hear your baby babbling, take a moment to listen to the different sounds they are trying to recreate. Those are sounds they hear throughout the day. When your child is facing you and you are speaking to them, keep in mind the more animated you look and sound, the longer you will keep their attention. Your child adores you as much as you adore them. They love the sound of the voices they recognize most. Take the opportunity to be silly and play with sounds with your baby. Congratulate yourself for supporting and encouraging your babies’ first sounds that will eventually become their first words!

 

Find more information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

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