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Home » Age-by-Age Insights »

Babies & Toddlers: Ages 0-2

Mom: Ohh ah ah ohh. Baby Ohh ... oh ah.

Play a Sound Game

"Babies learn to communicate not only through the words you say, but by what you do, how you hold and touch them and respond to their needs. If you hear your baby make a sound like 'Oh,' you might echo and extend it with an 'Oh, ah, oh.' Soon you will be having a back-and-forth game of sound."

Gillian McNamee, Ph.D.

Director of Teacher Education, Erikson Institute

How You Communicate

Touch, cuddle and croon to babies as a first form of communication. When babies cry, you can reassure them with your presence and a comforting, soothing tone. Babies respond the emotions you are communicating through what they see, hear and feel. They react to your sadness, tension, happiness or satisfaction.

Be aware that tone and body language make a difference. When a baby hears "Stop!" he will sometimes cry, because he is reacting to the sharpness and volume of your command. In the same way, a soft, loving "Good night" when you are tucking him into bed will comfort your child because of the soothing tone.

Stay physically connected as a way to communicate. Babies like being close to their parents. Wearing or holding them next to your body communicates reassurance and comfort; a carrier also allows you to move around and carry on with your life.

Don't be surprised if your baby cries when you are on the phone. A baby knows when you are not paying attention, and he knows how to get that attention back. His wailing can come at inconvenient times, but being aware of what's causing your baby's reactions may help you stay patient and deal with him in the moment.

Turn baby talk into a two-way conversation. Invite responses from your baby. Singing and chanting nursery rhymes are good ways to play with sound. They invite your baby to make a pleasing stream of sounds that eventually lead to talking.

Extend sounds and words to help children develop language skills. If your toddler says "Go home," you might extend his thought by saying, "You want to go home. We can leave in a few minutes."

Even if you are not sure how much your child understands, talk anyway! Like holding and kissing, words are an important way of staying in contact with your baby. They will help your baby begin to attach feelings and thoughts to sounds.

NEXT: Preschoolers — How They Communicate

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