Talking & Listening (birth - 33 months)

Before Watching

You are your child’s first teacher. When you expose your child to lots of language right from the start, you give him the tools to understand the world around him, express his thoughts and feelings, and learn from others. By talking with your little one throughout the day, you help him learn one of the most important skills he needs—how to communicate. Discovering new words together, sharing a back-and-forth conversation, and responding to your child's coos and giggles are not only part of the joy of being a parent, they help your little one develop the language skills needed to thrive in school and in life.

In this video you'll meet children from three families.

  • Gus (5 months), babbling and cooing as he experiences the world around him with his mom.
  • Marcelo (20 months) as he discovers words on his daily adventures with his parents.
  • Elsie (3 years) and her sister Lucie (13 months) as they have fun with language singing, playing, and reading with their mom.

Watch how they turn everyday situations into opportunities to talk, talk, talk!

After Watching

Talking and Learning. In this video, you heard many parents discuss the importance of talking with their children, even when they are babies. As you talk, it’s important to pause to give your little one the chance to respond. Gus's mom asks him lots of questions, even though he's not yet talking. She answered his coos like they were words and encouraged him to tell me more.

Try This. Think about how you talk with your baby or toddler throughout the day. The next time you are on the bus, taking a walk, or in the grocery store, see how long you can keep the conversation going with your child by asking lots of who, what, where, when, why, and how questions. If you have a baby, name objects that you encounter. You can also play with the sounds of the words and encourage your baby to imitate those sounds: Look, it’s a ball! Bbbb…ball. Bbbb…bouncing ball.

Everyday Talk. Talking together does not have to happen at any special time. You can just chat with your child as you go about your daily routines. Children learn words best when they are used in a meaningful context, so hearing words on the go is a great way to learn. In the video, Marcelo's parents pointed out a bus and a street sign as they went for a walk around the neighborhood. They talked about the sounds the bus made and read the words on the sign.

Try This. Treat your next walk like a safari. Say: Let's hunt for the tallest tree. Or: How many red things do we see? As you hunt, introduce exciting new words: There are a lot of red vehicles on the street today. With your baby, narrate what’s happening and what will happen next as you go about your daily activities. At bathtime, you could say: Next, we’re going to wash your face. Get ready! What a brave baby! Now it’s time to wash your tummy. Here comes the soapy washcloth.

Words Are Wonderful. Just because your children are little doesn’t mean you have to use little words or short sentences. Lucie and Elsie's mom mentioned that she used full sentences and lots of different words with her girls. Reading aloud and singing are two great ways to expose your child to new words.

Try This. Turn your actions into little songs. For example, as you do the dishes, you might narrate your actions to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Wash, wash, wash the cup. Watch the bubbles form. I'm scrubbing with a yellow sponge, cleaning up a storm.

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