Building your baby's vocabulary

All Woman

YOU can start your baby on the path to reading and talking as early as six months by building his/her vocabulary. This process begins with repeating the sounds your child makes and saying simple words with those sounds. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Milestone Moments guide says, for example, if your child says “bah”, say “bottle” or “book”. The guide encourages that you also read books to your child every day, praise them when they babble, and when your baby looks at something, point to it and talk about it.

“Read colourful picture books to your baby,” the guide encourages, and as early as six months, point out new things to your baby and name them, and show your baby bright pictures in a magazine and name them.

By a year old, you should be reading with your child every day.

“Have your child turn the pages. Take turns labelling pictures with your child. Build on what your child says or tries to say, or what he/she points to. If he/she points to a truck and says “T” or “truck”, say, “Yes, that's a big, blue truck.”

By 18 months you should be reading books, and talking about the pictures using simple words. Copy your child's words, and use words that describe feelings and emotions. Use simple, clear phrases and ask simple questions.

Near two years old, do not correct your child when he/she says words incorrectly. Rather, say it correctly; for example, “That is a ball.” Encourage your child to say a word instead of pointing. If your child can't say the whole word (“milk”), give him/her the first sound (“M”) to help.

Over time, you can prompt your child to say the whole sentence — “I want milk,” the guide says.

You should also be reading to your child every day. Ask your child to point to things in the pictures and repeat words after you.

Tips for reading aloud to children

The Early Childhood Commission encourages you to keep these tips in mind, when reading to your children. Reading aloud is fundamental to having your child learn about expressions and sounding out words.

1. If you haven't read the book already, scan it to get a sense of its contents before you start reading aloud.

2. Select texts to match children's reading and comprehension levels and interests.

3. Read at a moderate pace. Slow down to build up suspense and speed up during exciting scenes.

4. Discuss the cover, pictures and title of the text.

5. Make the story come alive. Use props (for example, hats, walking sticks, glasses, etc).

6. Encourage predictions from the children, both before and during the reading.

7. Involve children in phrases that are catchy or repetitive. Let them say it with you.

8. Use facial expressions, gestures, and body movements to enhance what is being read.

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