When we first enter the unfamiliar world of parenting so many people are quick to give us advice on feeding, changing, sleeping, dummies, bottles and the like, but where is the advice on simple things and extremely important things like how important it is to speak to our children! I’ve been teaching just over a decade now and one common deficiency I’m seeing more and more is the number of children who are coming to prep with a lack of oral language skills!
Whether it be their lack of ability to ask a question, respond to a question, follow an instruction, speak in simple sentences or being able to be understood, are all problems little people are facing when entering the school system. From the second our babies are born into this world, their little ears are responding to noise and the most precious gift a mother can give to her baby is her voice!
I think the problem is we forget to talk to our babies until they start responding first with a noise or a word, but a babies first response without noise is eye contact and listening to what is being said to them! We know ourselves if we are unable to use our voice we use eye contact as a way to communicate and we attain information by listening and that is what a baby does.
I can’t help myself, from the time my babies take their first breath I’m in their face talking to them. Between a nappy change, feeding, bathing, burping and playing, these are all perfect opportunities to bond with our babies and expose them to language. I’ve always taken these opportunities to sing a nursery rhyme, tell them about the wonderful things of the world or simply explain what I’m doing – “mummy is going to change your nappy”, “it’s bedtime now” right from birth my babies have heard cues like this. Our babies are like sponges and they are learning from a newborn. It’s amazing as they get older you see the benefit of talking to your baby. My youngest is almost 18 months and her language is evolving everyday! Not only is she communicating clearly through a variety of words, her receptive language (understanding what we say) is fantastic! Last year when my son was in prep, one thing his teacher always complimented him on was his oral language and my daughter’s preschool teacher just recently said how well she holds a conversation.
It makes me think that so many wonderful mothers, who if educated properly on this subject, would take it on board more. It’s common knowledge that reading to our babies as early as in utero is so important for our children, but very rarely do you read a lot of information about just generally talking to our babies. We are already a part of a world where speaking is becoming less and less due to an abundance of technology compared to even 10 years ago! It’s so easy to forget to do something so simple especially when life is so busy all the time, but if we made a habit of it and integrated talking to our children into our day to day chores and routines, it wouldn’t seem like work then.
It makes me sad to think that there are so many babies being born who spend their first five years with very little exposure to a wide variety of language and that all they needed from day one was someone to consistently engage with them. Our babies need to learn how to communicate orally as god knows by the time they are 10 and discover all the ins and outs of technology, talking becomes less and less. I always wondered when my babies were little babies and would look up at me, what they were thinking….I’m sure they were saying in their head “somebody please talk to me!” and that is what I’ve always done!
Mia only days old listening to me…….she doesn’t seem very interested in what I’m saying, but she will thank me one day for all the stories and bits of information I’ve told her:)