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When your baby is first born, you live for every new giggle and noise they make. Once those babbles begin to sound like words and phrases, you start spending more time wondering what their voice will sound like and what type of personality they will develop. From the beginning, you can help your child develop their vocabulary through various techniques, games and exercises that will assist them in identifying certain sounds and letters and eventually words. But how should you start this process?

The first thing to consider is your tone when speaking with your baby. Remember, your voice is one of the first things they learned to recognize and it provides comfort and safety for them. This also means you probably have your own form of “baby talk” you use with them. Nicknames for them, as well as certain toys and objects, which make activities more fun. But when it’s time to help them learn new sounds, it’s best to use the proper pronunciation of the words. Speak slowly and clearly at a moderate volume, emphasizing vowel sounds — it’s almost like singing and talking at the same time.

The easiest way to begin helping your child learn new vocabulary is to read to them. And they are never too young for you to start this. Pick stories both new and familiar and read to them before naptime and bedtime. As they get older and are able to sit up and better focus on the book, you can begin pointing to words and sounding them out more slowly so they understand. Don’t be afraid to animate the words to illustrate the story. For example, when reading a book about animals, don’t hesitate to let a lion “rooooooaaaaar!”

Games are another strategy for helping your child learn to recognize letters, sounds and words to build their vocabulary. Once they’re entering the toddler stage, you can really get them involved and celebrating their accomplishments will give them the confidence to use what they’ve learned.

Here are some games to try:

  1. Flash cards with colorful pictures to illustrate words or letters.
  2. Letter magnets for a magnetic board or even the fridge.
  3. Foam or plastic letters that float in the bathtub for learning while playing.
  4. Try rhyming exercises using familiar words.
  5. Go on a scavenger hunt to find objects associated with different letters.
  6. Make bins for toys or small objects to be organized by letter.

And, of course, keep talking to them. All day long. In the home, in the park, in the store, everywhere.  Narrate your activities and tasks as they follow you around. If you’re cooking a meal, talk them through the recipe or sing to them. The more words and phrases they hear throughout the day the better. That being said, try to limit their exposure as much as possible to slang and the dreaded curse words — it won’t be long before they’re repeating everything.

Your child’s brain develops rapidly in the early years of their life. While it may seem silly at times to be talking so much with a little person who cannot respond, you’re doing wonders for their cognitive ability and vocabulary with every sweet little “conversation” you have.

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