Your baby is taking a giant step in language development in the second year of life. He is beginning to use the code that his family has been using around him for over a year. As he begins to express himself with words, you can help that learning along by optimizing your interactions with him. This can occur in all situations, including reading time and playtime.
It is hard to exist in today’s world without hearing how important it is to read to your baby. We cannot emphasize enough how true this is. However, what you may not realize is that even at this age, your baby’s second year of life, reading is an important activity. By establishing a book-reading routine with your child at this early age, you are helping him realize early how important reading is. You also are setting up a routine that will teach him crucial skills for later reading that last far beyond when he can read to himself.
In this second year of life, reading time with your baby may only last five minutes. Don’t get frustrated, though. For some babies, this is all the time they choose to devote to this activity, and that’s OK. At this point in development, it’s the quality, not the quantity, of the time you spend with your baby.
Keep It Simple
The books you choose for your baby should be relatively simple. If you find books that allow you to label pictures of objects, people and actions that are familiar to him, they will likely be most interesting to him.
As you read, talk about the pictures of the objects, pointing to them as you label them. After several readings, you might occasionally ask your baby to point to the pictures (“Where’s the ball?”).
Why do we say to only occasionally ask your baby to point to pictures? First, children want their parents to be parents, not teachers. If you begin to turn parent-child interaction times into quiz times, you may actually decrease your baby's willingness and desire to interact with you. Similarly, you want to refrain from asking him to imitate your naming of pictures. Directed imitation won’t help him know when to use a word or why it is used. However, if you find that your baby chooses to use a word after you have said it, that’s great! Child-initiated imitations, or reproductions of what you have said, show you that your baby is starting to understand that particular word or reason for talking.
Research suggests that children of varying ages tend to choose to imitate another person’s
language when they are preparing to use that type or level
of language themselves. So, when your baby chooses to imitate something you have said, echo back
that word and expand on it, or add extra information to
it. This might sound like the following:
Parent: “Look, a truck.”
Parent: “Yes, truck. A big truck.” When you respond to your baby this way, you are saying that you understood what he said, that it had meaning, and that he can even add more information later, as he matures. That's quite a bit for you to help him learn in such a small amount of time!
Some babies really like to name pictures and objects while other babies don’t have this preference.
Let Your Baby Lead
There is one other reason why you don’t want to ask your baby to label pictures after you have named them. Some babies really like to name pictures and objects while others don't. You want to match your language and activities to your baby’s preferences the best you can.
The most important thing to remember is that parents themselves are the primary “language role models” for their children. Model language every day by talking with your baby and using words and sentences that are related to what he is focused on. From your baby’s first word to his first tween “Don’t worry, Mom” and every step between and beyond, you can be confident you’ve helped raise an enthusiastic communicator.
Adapted from Beyond Baby Talk: From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Patents and Caregivers. Copyright 2012 by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. To learn more or purchase a copy, visit asha.org/BeyondBabyTalk