This article by Dr. Perri Klass is so chock full of information on early language development that I would like to just string quote after quote after quote together here.  If you have a small child, if you work with small children, please take the time to read it carefully, all the way to the end. Paragraph after paragraph holds a gem.

Klass begins with, “If a baby isn’t babbling normally, something may be interrupting what should be a critical chain: not enough words being said to the baby, a problem preventing the baby from hearing what’s said, or from processing those words. Something wrong in the home, in the hearing or perhaps in the brain.”

Babies need to be talked with, back and forth, by human beings, conversationally. Not enough talking happening with baby, not just around baby? Babbling will not happen. This is why that, in addition to encouraging reading with babies, we must also encourage talking with them. And with lower literacy parents and parents in poverty, we may actually have to teach talking with babies.

Another  important idea is that babbling comes in two stages: first, the “noises” stage and then the adding consonants stage. If a child older than 7 months is not making consonant sounds, asking why not needs to happen.

Notice how much the article then talks about the physicality of learning to babble consonant sounds. I have been struck over the years at what seems to be the growing number of children needing speech therapy as preschoolers and kindergartners.

Two factors can contribute to this:

One is mentioned in the article: “Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills. Television doesn’t do it, and neither do educational videos…”

Why do TV and video not help with language development? Because while baby or young child may be able to respond to the TV, the TV will not respond to the baby or child. The interaction is at best only one way. It is not true interaction. There also is not the chance for the child to see and even touch what is going on with the mouth and face that is making those sounds. Learning speech, learning consonants especially, is a physical activity.

So that leads to my next point: Pull the plugs. Babies and toddlers cannot be physical with their mouths when they are plugged with a pacifier. The two are incompatible. If a child uses it to get to sleep, that may be one thing (they aren’t listening to speech and responding), or there may be special circumstances like with TV (watching when sick). But overall pacifier use does more harm than good. (Not only can they slow this mouth muscle experimentation and development, they also affect tongue thrust which affects speech.)

Enough from me though! Scroll back up, read Dr. Klass, and think how the info contained can be applied to your storytimes and to your parenting. Your children will benefit!

Cheers for babbling!