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Helping infants develop language skills

Babies cry. It's a fact of life. But day after day, those cries will gradually make way to single syllables and then whole words - and eventually complete sentences. However, there's a lot of time between the first days of life and full-fledged verbal communication. And as a child care provider, there's much that you can do during that period to encourage language abilities.  

Though the infants you care for may not be talking yet, it's important to be intentional about helping them to gain the skills they will eventually need for verbal communication. 

Speak as much as possible
They may not understand you, but infants need to be spoken to. Tell the baby you're caring for what's happening as you go throughout the day. "Hi, baby. It's lunch time. This milk is going to taste so good! It's in a bottle. Let's get it out of the fridge!" It may sound silly, but you're exposing him or her to language, which is critical. 

Not sure what to talk about? The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommended counting items, identifying colors, and encouraging baby's attempts at communication.  

"For 1-year-olds, using gestures as nonverbal communication is an important skill you can encourage," confirmed Dr. Michelle Macias, professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, in an interview with Parents magazine.

Incorporate gestures and signs
Helping an infant develop verbal skills isn't done just through speaking. You can also help a baby learn to communicate through gestures and sign language. 

Even if a baby isn't speaking yet, he or she can likely understand more than you expect. When children make gestures such as waving or reaching for certain items, add the verbal communication. "Yes, this is waving! It means goodbye." Over time, they will connect your words with their own gestures. 

Teaching a child signs for frequently used words such as "more," "done," and "milk" can also be helpful, especially in terms of figuring out what he or she is trying to say before words are used.  

Read, read, read
When you aren't speaking directly to babies, you can still help them recognize words by reading to them regularly. As infants grow and begin to recognize shapes and images, they can connect the pictures on the page with the words you're speaking. And variety isn't necessary. Reading the same books multiple times may even help the infant begin to pick up on certain words more effectively and associate them with the accompanying images on the pages.  

To learn more about child development and improve your abilities as a child care provider, enroll in online courses through ProSolutions Training.

Check out our course called "Learning Language: Birth to 36 Months" to learn more about how to help children develop proper speaking skills.