Developmentally Appropriate Baby Toys: Language & Social Skills
Babies are born with a basic set of communication skills which allow them to express their wants and needs. They are never taught to cry if they are hungry or hurt, they just do.
Language acquisition can be facilitated at an early age. Many studies suggest reading stories and playing music to a baby even while he is still inside his mother’s womb. The baby familiarizes himself with the sound made by the parent. It serves as a form of bonding and social reference prior to birth.
Parents sing songs and read their children books as a means of entertaining the child once he or she is born. It is advisable to have some relaxing and soothing music which would help induce sleep for a child who may be having difficulty sleeping. It would also eventually serve as a non verbal cue for the child that it’s bed time when he gets older.
Colours & Books
Babies are attracted to differentiated colour patterns like black and white, red and black, etc. There are specialized books that have these kinds of colour combinations. They are also available in soft cotton forms which are safe for the child to hold and play with on his own. It also promotes pre-reading fine motor skills needed to turn book pages.
Books with words on them can be used by parents to read stories to their child. However, books with large images and pictures are ideal for baby’s solo play since he would be able to clearly see the image on the book. Books matched with identification words or visual prompts (ex. B is for Ball) can be introduced when the baby transitions towards toddler stage.
Other than books, mirrors are a great way to teach pre-language s kills such as mouth and lip movement. The child would be able to watch and see how to move his own mouth to form particular words as he watches his care giver say it. Use a very high pitched and animated voice while playing with a baby to grab his attention and say words in a slow manner. Exaggerate the lip and tongue movement so the baby would be able to imitate it better. A 2011 Harvard study found this to be the most effective way to interact with babies, with many babies perferring adults who do this even after the ‘baby talk’ has ceased.
Musical instruments like maracas, tambourines, and drums are all a great way to develop social skills. The child engages in the play activity due to the loud sounds made by the instruments. Place the instrument near your face as you play it so that the child’s eyes are directed to your face. This promotes eye contact and helps teach receptive language skills.
Another great play time activity would be puppet time. Use hand or finger puppets to grab his attention. Play out a scene from a book using the puppets or simply “talk” to the baby using the puppet.
For a more high tech style of play activity, there are a lot of gadgets and videos readily available for babies and children. These videos are always fun and entertaining for the child. However, it must be noted that prolonged periods of gadget exposure may lead to poor eye sight. The habit of watching too much television has also been directly linked as a leading cause of numerous developmental delays.
At the end of the day, the best way to teach a baby how to talk is simply to talk to him or her as often as possible. The child may or may not necessarily respond as often as you might like, but the learning process is there and will eventually bear fruits over time.