Kindergarteners are fun. They can have full conversations with you and complete tasks you ask of them (e.g., clearing their plate from the table).
Toddlers are exciting, Their language is developing at such an amazing rate that it’s hard to keep track. One day they are putting two or three words together, the next they are making you laugh hysterically with their short, but adorable sentences.
Even older infants are entertaining. When they say their first words or utter “momma”, “dadda” or the dogs name for the first time, parents melt and then talk incessantly trying to get them to say these words again.
What about newborns? Adorable yes, but interactive? Not exactly. And early on, they are provide few verbal interactions, limited to the cry and shout-out variety. This can make it tough for parents to know how or want to interact with their babies. But this is an important time for brain and language development and all the language and interaction parents can do with their tiny babies can help. So here are some ideas of ways to interact with your very teeny, tiny, newborn. Remember to use your parentese voice- that singsongy voice that adults automatically use when talking to babies.
1, Have a Conversation. Pretend you and your baby are having a conversation. Ask her a question and give her time to respond. If your baby has started cooing, give her a chance to coo in response and then you respond as if she told you something fascinating, This back and forth exchange is great for language development and something you can start as early as birth.
2. Read books. You may have been given a bunch of board books for your infant, these typically contain one picture and one word per page. You can read these to your infant, but it might be incredibly boring for you. Instead invest in some classic kids books like Dr. Seuss, Corduroy, The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, etc, and read these to your newborn. They will be more enjoyable for you. At this point your baby is benefiting from the language interaction and is not so focused on the storyline and plot so it won’t matter that it is above her comprehension level. On that note, you can also read aloud whatever adult book, blog, newspaper, or magazine you are currently reading. Remember in the movie Three Men and A Baby, when Tom Selleck is reading a trashy novel to the baby using parentese and says it doesn’t matter what he says, its his voice that the baby likes? Well, same idea, the language helps so read something you enjoy sometimes too.
3. Tell stories. Sometimes new parents aren’t ready to be the creative storyteller yet, but storytelling doesn’t have to be the plot for the next Harry Potter series. Tell your baby how you and your partner met. Tell her about your favorite vacation or that embarrassing moment in college. My father, an architect, told our baby details about every building in Chicago. Again, it’s the language and interaction that matter not necessarily the content at this point.
4. Sing Songs. Look it doesn’t matter if you could be a competitive singer on American Idol or if your dog whines in pain when you sing, singing to your baby is a great way to increase your interaction with him and help your baby’s language development. Some baby favorites are the ABC’s, The Wheels on the Bus, London Bridge, Hickory Dickory Dock, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Ants Go Marching (a great list of songs with lyrics can be found here).
5. Talk about your day. This can be reciting your To Do list or discussing what you used to do during the day before you were caring for a newborn. For example, tell him what you are doing when getting him dressed. “We are going to get dressed. We need to put on a new diaper, change our onesie, and pick out a new outfit”
Hope these ideas help and happy chatting!