Our kids love to play and communicate with us and we know that many of us have loosened our restrictions on screen time these days, both for ourselves and for our kids. However, having that screen-free time incorporated into everyday life is also key. 

Time spent away from screens helps our kids to explore, discover and use their imaginations. Screen-free time allows a child’s brain to develop in ways that screen-time does not.

Our days get busy and time gets away from us so NONA has listed a few ideas below that you can incorporate with your baby to set the foundation for communicating with your child.

Sing to your child – Babies and young children are naturally drawn to music, so use it to engage with your child.  Music can peak and hold your child’s interest.

  • Keep it simple – instead of just saying the words as you talk to your child throughout the day, use a simple ‘sing-song’ tune and sing your words.
  • It’s the singer, not the song – it doesn’t matter what you sing (or how you sing), your child will be drawn to the music and rhythm and you.  So stick to the classics (Row, Row, Row Your Boat; The ABC Song; Old MacDonald, etc.) or belt out your current faves (Maroon 5, Brad Paisley, Adele, etc.)!
  • Add some actions – often actions are easier to learn and copy than words, so even before your child can copy your words, they will try to copy your actions.  So sing songs with actions (Itsy Bitsy Spider, Zoom Zoom Zoom, The Wheels on the Bus, etc.)
  • Rock and Roll – as you sing or listen to music, help your child feel the rhythm of the music whether you bounce or rock them in time to the music, or use your arms and hands to keep the beat. Like music, language has rhythm.

Have early “conversations” – taking very early turns with your child helps to build a foundation for the language and play skills they will learn later on.

  • Mealtime “chats” – many parents begin these early “conversations” naturally when feeding their infants.  You might notice that you are quieter while your child is actively sucking (e.g. taking their turn in the “conversation”), and that you talk, hum or sing to your child when they pause or take a break from feeding.  Even babies are aware of these patterns in “conversation”
  • Build “joint attention” – being able to pay attention to the same thing as you is a HUGE step in development for babies, and sets the stage for language development. Pay attention to what your baby is looking at, point to the object, label it and talk about the object. Babies will start this type of interaction by looking at something, looking at you, and looking back at the object – this is your child’s way of starting a conversation with you. Take the cue and keep it going!

Read a book – Even with newborn infants, reading allows your child to hear your voice and tune in to your words. Try to incorporate books into every day – even if it’s the same book each day (babies and children love repetition). Favorites for this age group often include;

  • “First Words” books
  • Books with real faces
  • Board books or bath books
  • Books that invite comments

Explore outdoors – babies and young children learn from everyday activities and almost everything is stimulating for them!

  • Go for a walk – talk about what you see, feel and hear – the sun shining, the wind in the trees, the puppy passing by, birds chirping, grass under their toes, etc. Hearing your words while they experience their world helps them to learn the language of their world.
  • Blow bubbles – very young children may not yet be able to blow bubbles but will still enjoy popping them or watching them float around in the breeze. If your child is learning to blow, point to your lips to encourage them to watch your face for clues about how to do it. Take turns and give them regular opportunities to try to do it themselves. Label simple words like “dip”, “blow”, “bubbles” and “pop”.

If you would like information that is more specific to your child, please do not hesitate to email your S-LP directly, or you can email NONA’s Therapies Supervisor at jennifer.furey@nullnona-cdc.com and she will be able to help you out or direct your request to someone who can. We are here to help.