Help Your Child Talk: Listening Games for Your Baby

Here's extract number 9 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

This extract introduces games to play to help your child develop his listening skills.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Notice how your baby listens attentively to the noises around him during his first year. He may stop what he’s doing to listen to a new sound, and he’s likely to turn to search for something interesting, such as the sound of another baby. He turns if you make a quiet noise behind his back.

Listening: familiar sounds
From around six months, he recognises familiar words. When you say the name of a family member, he turns to look at them. He enjoys the sound of his own voice and makes repetitive babbling nonsense sounds, such as “ba-ba-ba”. He needs to spend time with you, copying your babbling noises and laughing.

Listening: activities for babies
Always play listening games in a quiet room and turn off the TV and radio. Play when you and your baby are happy and relaxed. If one of you is not enjoying the game, stop playing and try again another time.

Listening: baby activities: noisy rattles
Find two or three different rattles or soft squeaky toys. Shake or squeak the loudest of these on one side of your baby, where he cannot see it. Watch him turn his head towards the sound. Shake the rattle from a different direction, then from another.

Take your time and give your baby a chance to enjoy the sound and to turn and see the rattle. If he reaches for the rattle, let him have it and let him play with it himself.

Use another of the noisemakers, perhaps one that makes a quieter sound, and squeak that in a place where your baby can’t see it.

Whisper his name, or rattle a piece of paper.

If you think he had difficulty hearing the sounds, ask a health professional for advice.

Listening: baby activities: babbling
Babbling is repeating of speech sounds many times. It begins at around 6 months old and as he babbles. he practices all the speech sounds, ready for the time he begins talking.

Choose a time when you and your baby are looking at each other. This could be as you finish changing his nappy, or give him his feed, or perhaps as he sits in his bouncing cradle.

Make repetitive sounds: “ba-ba-ba” or “ch-ch-ch” and see if he responds. If he makes sounds of his own, babble them back to him. Don’t worry that there are no real words attached to the sounds, just have fun.

Listening: baby activities: what's that?
When you hear noises around the house, draw your baby's attention to them by saying, “What's that?” Take him to see whatever makes the noise. The cat may be miaowing or Daddy may be opening the front door. Through constant repetition, your baby associates the sound with the activity.

Listening: baby activities: nursery rhymes
Keep singing to your baby as you bath him, or change him.

Turning on the tape recorder to let him listen on his own is nowhere near as good for his future language skills as singing yourself. Remember that song is a form of communication. You want your child to communicate with you, not with a piece of machinery.

CDs are, though, worth their weight in gold on long car journeys.

Come back next week for another extract, all about your baby's listening skills: why they matter and how you can help him learn to listen. A link will appear HERE.

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I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.