Communication with baby

Just For Parents

May 07, 2000

Editor's Note: Jerdine Nolen continues her series on language development skills. Her column appears biweekly.

For many newborns, experiences shared with caregivers help to develop language. Crying and wailing are an infant's only means of vocal communication. As hard as they are to listen to, these cries have meaning. After determining that the baby isn't hungry or in pain, listen to your infant as she attempts to communicate with you. Show understanding by your proximity, touch or with eye contact.

Speak softly to your infant in conversational tones about what she might be crying about. Responses to those cries set a pattern of learning behaviors. Regular visits to your baby's pediatrician should include talking about the baby's growth and development.

Many 3- to 8-month olds:

* Play with sounds

* Babble to themselves

* Use sounds to communicate pleasure at the sound of a happy voice

* Cry/look unhappy at the sound of an angry voice

* Wave their arms, play peekaboo and show excitement when read to

What you can do:

* Get to know your baby's moods.

* Become aware of the differences in her cries: sleepy/tired, hungry, scared, hurt, sad, surprised.

* Make eye/skin contact when talking and playing with the baby.

* Use short words and phrases when speaking with her.

* Teach your baby about taking turns when communicating with others by playing games, such as peekaboo and patty-cake, or hand something to her and ask for its return.

* Place a rattle in your baby's hand.

* Hold out a squeeze toy for her to grab.

* Read to your baby.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" and "Raising Dragons." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education, and has personally field-tested her suggestions on her son and daughter.

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