Welcome the talking phase
Speech, what! This can actually drive mothers crazy, especially when your friends’ baby develops theirs way early and all your baby can seem to say comfortably is baba and mama.
My son has been talking a lot lately, not baby talk, but he seems to repeat everything you say, the confidence with which he says the words is amazing, he will challenge you if you try to correct him and his memory for words is awesome. Now, my friend’s baby started talking way before my son and I had to remind myself every other day that babies develop differently. In fact, he (my friends’ son) never really mixed up his words. My son for the longest time called Nyama Manya.
How do you encourage speech to your baby?
1. Do not baby-talk back at them, if they mix up words, do not repeat their mistake, it is very tempting and I have caught myself repeating once in a while. Pokort for popcorn, ochurio for oh toodles (mickey mouse), lepoles for apples, trust me there are many more. When he calls things or people with mixed up speech, I repeat with the correct word and by and by he is learning.
2. Switch off the TV- very tempting to have it on so it can keep baby company, but it does more harm than good. They speak way too fast, their accent is different from yours, they don’t have the interaction that is needed to help develop speech.
3. Play time and date, if you live in an estate with other children, take baby out to play with them, they learn from listening to ‘their own’ speak. I remember a neighbour who moved into our neighbourhood and the baby 3 years could barely say 2 words, my son was a chatter box and 1 year younger 1 month later, just from interaction with other kids, our neighbour’s son could string together a sentence.
4. Talk, this should start from as early as birth, talk to your baby, your sound is soothing and as they grow, they will imitate you, I used to talk to much you would think I was having an adult conversation with someone. I would explain what I was doing, I would point out things around the house, on his body, outside, the flowers, birds, trees, leaves, cars etc.
5. Read for your baby. I remember at some point most of my son’s toys were book, picture books. I read the picture book for him so much, his first word after dada and mama was cow. They don’t get bored with the same story, my son will tell me every other night mama sing caterpillar, which is actually a book that we have turned into a poem and with his dad it’s the 3 little pigs. Point out objects and name them in the book, this will help them have a visual. be animated in your read, emphasise words you want him to learn, you don’t have to read word for word, look at the picture and explain in your own words.
6. Music, simple nursery rhymes that can be repeated over and over. Gives them a beat to remember the words.
7. Give him instructions of things that he can learn, for example if you are in the kitchen, ask him to pass you the onion, close the door, give you a cup.
8. Encourage your baby to use his words, if he is crying and you know he wants water, refer to it as water, tell him use your words, you want water, let me give you water, drink your water. Name his toys, so you can ask him, go play with Mickey mouse, or go bring your train, where is the ball?
9. Let him experience. I have taken my son to the farm, he gets to touch the actual animal, sheep, rabbit, dog, cow, pig and hear the actual sound made by the animals so even when you see it in a book, you can give a story of what he saw, visuals help, a lot.
I have read over and over that babies can learn more than one language and as they become older, that ability diminishes. I talk to my baby in English, I throw Kiswahili words and statements here and there, my husband speak English mainly and our house help does Kishwahili almost all the time apart from simple English words.
The other day I read online about a mother who was vexed by the housie because she speaks to the baby in Kiswahili and the mother wants the baby to learn English. My thought to that, relax, speak to your baby in English and let her learn both languages, he/she is smarter than you think and even when they go to school, that will not be a problem in a week she will be speaking English through her nose.
Very Important to note: Speech develops differently for different kids and research shows that girl’s speech develops faster than boys. Do not compare your child to other children and start panicking, if really alarmed by the delayed speech talk to your doctor and avoid mums who put unnecessary pressure in comparison to their child.
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