Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Talking and reading to your baby

I am sorry to say that I lost my camera almost a month ago, so the pictures in this post are old. I was reluctant to post until I found my camera, but I have since decided to purchase another camera and continue blogging without it until it arrives. When I was pregnant, I read in several of my books that it was important that I talk to the baby. I tried, I really did, but it felt weird to talk to my belly besides saying things like, "Ouch, please stop kicking my rib!" or "I can't wait until you get here, so you use this quilt I made you." I felt like I ran out of things to say. I didn't really read children's stories to my fetal infant and spent many of my hours at home alone in complete silence or talking on the phone, but I know lots of people who have done such things, and more power to them. I just couldn't. I tried to read my own books out loud, but I just felt silly and would become a silent reader after a few minutes.

When the baby was born, I found that talking to her was a little easier, but I would still run out of things to say after a few minutes. If this has also been a problem for you, my advice would be to keep talking anyway. I watched my mother talk to her. She didn't seem to have any trouble finding things to say. "Do you see the kitty? The kitty sees a ladybug up on the window. Oh! She is going to try to get it. What a smart and silly kitty! Oh, someone in a red truck drove by." I watched her and I learned to generate one-sided conversation about observations I was forcing myself to make. I talked to her, around her, and to myself at times. I talked on the phone and I spoke to her as if she were an adult, with adult vocabulary. My mother has a theory that if a young child can understand, say, and use the word "refrigerator" properly, then they should be able to understand, say, and use other large words. "Daddy should be home around 6, weather permitting. We have a 30% chance of precipitation tonight, so it could get messy. What do you feel like making for supper?" I read to my daughter often, but board books are boring and she didn't seem to always care about books, so it definitely wasn't everyday.

By the time my daughter was 6-months-old, speaking to her was as easy as talking to anyone else, and even if she didn't respond fully yet, I could tell that she was understanding quite a bit. Within a few months, she started to actually respond with words. Books and conversation became more and more fun, so we read and talked more frequently. Reading to a baby or toddler should involve more than reading the words. If there are a lot of words, sometimes I will sum up the page rather than read each word. I would rather "read" a shorter version all the way to the end than have her try to stop the book after the first boring page. After we read the words, we talk about it a little bit. It is different every time we read the book, to keep it interesting and keep her thinking. Here are some examples of how we would talk about a page. "Do you see the dog? Where is he, can you show me?" Another time I might say, "Uh oh. What's going to happen?" or "That wasn't very nice, was it?" "Where is his eye? Can you find it?" I let her turn the pages, but I often put my finger behind the next page to help it get started, so we don't skip pages. Board books have the hardest pages to turn, which I find ridiculous - why don't they round the edge of each page so a baby can turn the pages more easily?

Now, at 14 months, she is starting to form her own sentences and it is so exciting! Today we were out in back of our house, picking blueberries near our yard and our sweet baby was playing on the grass nearby, occasionally visiting me for handfuls of blueberries, with a polite "peeez" (please). Eventually she came to the edge of the grass and fussed. I said, "I don't know what you need when you fuss like that. I need you to use real words, please. What do you need, honey?" She came closer, tugged on my jeans, and said "Mumma, all done." I asked if she wanted more blueberries and she replied, "No no. (no, thank you) Mumma all done." I stood up and she clapped, running toward the house and eventually the driveway. She was excited to play with rocks. I was so excited about her communication that I stopped picking berries and called my grammie to tell her. Often she decides to look at books on her own, with books all around her on the floor, or she asks me to read. She will point to things as we talk about the pages, and she will repeat some of it after I say it. She turns the pages when we are ready, and usually I don't have to tell her when it is time for the next page because she can tell. She knows which way to turn the pages and how we treat books gently. After we finish reading a book, she often wants to either read it again from the beginning, or turn to her favorite pages again just to look at them. Sometimes she pretends to read the books to her baby doll.

Babies grow and develop at different rates, and it definitely isn't all environmental, but talking and reading to your baby can only help. As an educator, I have been told time and time again that kids who are read to at home have a distinct educational advantage over kids who are not read to at home. I want to read every night and several times throughout the day. I want to talk to her and listen to her. I want her to know that I respect and love her, and value her opinions, feelings and ideas. I try very hard to be polite and understanding, while still being the adult in charge and making a million decisions each day. I try to say "yes" when it is okay, even though a "no, not right now" is often easier. Can she have a cheese stick right now? Okay, fine, I guess now is okay. Do I really need to supervise going up the stairs right now? Yes, there is no reason why she can't practice stairs now. If it is not okay, I will follow up the "no" with an explanation most of the time. I am also trying to teach patience, so many times I will say, "Supper isn't ready quite yet, but we will eat in a few minutes." or "Yes, we can go outside, but I need to use the bathroom first and you need boots, and then we will go outside. Can you find your boots?" I am learning as I go. If you are like me and didn't read to your fetal infant or talk to your newborn enough, start now. It isn't too late to change habits. Put reading into your nighttime routine. Talk about what you are doing and where you are going. We also pray with and around our daughter throughout the day. I can't believe how quickly my daughter is learning, she is soaking up the world around her like a sponge. I want to surround her with things worth soaking up.

Any thoughts?


  1. Great tips! I often find myself running out of things to say to my 6-month-old, so your post is very helpful!

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