Your Baby Talk Questions… Answered
We had just an incredible number of interesting questions about language development submitted on the Beyond Baby Talk post. I love how our kids make us so curious, how they compel us to think about things that we’ve probably taken for granted for most of our lives.
Congratulations to “Dukes Haven Homestead” on being the commenter chosen at random to win the giveaway of a copy of Beyond Baby Talk! I think she’ll find the chapter on siblings and birth order especially interesting, since she has a baby and a toddler to talk with now.
As promised, the authors of Beyond Baby Talk, Drs. Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson, took the time to answer a few of our readers’ questions. The rest of your questions certainly gave me some ideas for future blog posts, for that time in the near (truly!) future when I have time to research and write another post!
Your Baby Talk Questions Answered
by Drs. Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson
What gets more bang for the buck– variety or repetition? Should I be singing the same songs over and over or always surprise my baby with new songs?
~ Tara Sutherland
They both get you bang! On the one hand, you get bang for your buck with some repetition in song, and in language that accompanies daily routines (using the same kind of phrases and routine language when engaged in bath time or changing time) because your baby begins to “catch on” when she hears the same words and phrases attached to the same contexts/movements/objects. On the other hand, variety is good because it allows your baby to experience different words and phrases that make up language. The bottom line we promote in our book, Beyond Baby Talk, is to let your baby be your guide. Follow her lead. If she wants you to sing the same song, go ahead. But don’t be afraid to introduce new songs, new rhymes, or new comments and words as you engage in daily routines. It’s the spice of life!
I have a 19-month-old whose language skills have been rapidly expanding in the last few months. What’s the best way to handle the times when he is trying very hard to say something specific and we just can’t understand what he is saying? Is it better to make some guesses (which seems to frustrate him when we guess wrong), or just say we don’t know? How do we respond in a way that is encouraging and not frustrating for him? (Example conversation: “It’s a shote.” “A shirt? shout? shoe? Can you point to it?” “Nooo! Shote, Mama!”)
We remember those days as parents, and we continue to hear parents raise this concern in our clinics! The good news is that your child’s language is rapidly expanding. The challenge is that his speech skills may not be keeping the same pace yet. We believe that a combination of the potential responses is likely best. First, do everything you can to make sure your guesses are very “educated.” In your example, if the child says, “It’s a shote.” use what you know about how sentences work to know that the mystery word is a noun rather than a verb or adjective. Also, think about the kind of words that your child is likely to attempt. As we say in Beyond Baby Talk, children at this stage of development are likely commenting about something that’s directly in the environment. They might use words like, shirt, shoe, and shoot, but not shout, sheet or short (we promise the reasons are explained in the book!). Paying close attention to the context and a sense of what words your child has likely encountered can help you narrow it down even further. Ultimately, you can either successfully identify the word your child is attempting, or you can say, “Did you say shirt or shoot?”. This acknowledges to your child that you are not sure, but allows him to respond to something more specific than a simple, “I don’t know what you said.”
I listen to audiobooks in the car when I’m driving (to preserve my own sanity), so my daughter listens by virtue of being in the car. Will this have any impact on her language development compared to listening to music or anything else? I’m aware that talking is the best way to develop language skills, but after a long day, I just can’t talk during the whole drive home and then connect with her once we get there!
We hear you. As parents who also worked outside the home, there were days where we needed some down time on the way home, so we plopped in a cassette (yes, that’s how old we are) while we drove home. Remember, especially when your child is young, you want to be talking about what he is focused on. That might be difficult to do in the car (but not impossible). If you need some time to freshen your brain so that when you get home, you are ready for some quality parent and child time, then go ahead and do that. Your child benefits when you can focus on what he wants to communicate about, comment on his actions and his communications, and follow his lead. If you need some time to get yourself ready for this, then so be it. As we mention in Beyond Baby Talk, it is about quality not necessarily quantity.
Thanks to Kenn and Julie for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. I encourage you to check out Beyond Baby Talk if you want to learn more!