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Small Talk: Making "Conversation" with Your Baby

You know your baby has a lot to tell you, but what? You may not always be able to figure it out, but there are ways you can help your baby build her verbal skills.

Yada, yada, yada at her

It may seem like your baby doesn’t know what you’re saying, but she’s been listening to the different tones of your voice since before she was born. Babies know the difference between happy and stressed talk, and they soak up what they hear like little sponges. And after about 18 months, all she’s heard you say will start pouring out! Talk to her about what you’re doing as you do it, and leave space for her to respond. "We’re going to take a stroller ride now. What do you think about that?"

"Monkey see, monkey do"

Mimic his every movement and expression. If he turns his head to the side, turn yours, too. Give him your best rendition of his goos and bah-bahs. You’ll capture his attention, even if the exchange is short.

Exaggerate everything.

Make your voice squeaky, open your eyes wide and raise your eyebrows. Speak slowly, drawing out your sounds at the end of words: "Are you my bayyy-beee? Oh, yes you a-r-r-e!"

Work the classics

"Peekaboo," "This Little Piggy Went to Market" and "I’m going to tickle your tummy!" work (almost) every time.

Try signing

In the months before they begin mastering words, most babies can learn how to use basic baby hand signs for "milk," "more" and other everyday words.

Lean in Remember, for the first six months, babies are nearsighted. Whatever method of communication you choose, move in close so you’re about 6-12 inches from his face.

And of course, the best time to carry on a conversation with your baby is when she’s rested, well-fed and has an alert and ready expression on her face. Turning her head from side to side or looking away means she’s hungry, tired or plain had enough.

Sandy & Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Baby’s First Year. Order your copy from Barnes & Noble
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