For babies from birth to 1 year
Babies love hearing your voice. When you answer your child's sounds with sounds of your own, she learns that what she "says" has meaning and is important to you.
What to Do
1) Talk to your baby often. Answer her coos, gurgles, and smiles. Talk, touch, and smile back. Get her to look at you.
2) Play simple talking and touching games with your baby. Ask, "Where's your nose?" Then touch her nose and say playfully, "There's your nose!" Do this several times, then switch to an ear or knee or tummy. Stop when she (or you) grows tired of the game.
3) Change the game by touching the nose or ear and repeating the word for it several times. Do this with objects, too. When she hears you name something over and over again, your child begins to connect the sound with what it means.
4) Do things that interest your baby. Vary your tone of voice, make funny faces, sing lullabies, and recite simple nursery rhymes. Play "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake" with her.
It's so important to talk to your baby! With your help, her coos and gurgles will one day give way to words
What You Need
Cardboard or cloth books with large, simple pictures of things with which babies are familiar
Lift-the-flap, touch-and-feel, or peek-through play books (For suggestions, see Resources for Children.)
What to Do
1) Read to your baby for short periods several times a day. Bedtime is always a good time, but you can read at other times as well—while you're in the park, on the bus, or even at the breakfast table (without the food!).
2) As you read, point out things in the pictures. Name them as you point to them.
Give your baby sturdy books to look at, touch, and hold. Allow him to peek through the holes or lift the flaps to discover surprises.
Babies soon recognize the faces and voices of those who care for them. As you read to your baby, he will begin to connect books with what he loves most—your voice and closeness.
For children ages 1 to 6
Continue talking with your older child as you did with your baby. Talking helps him to develop language skills and lets him know that what he says is important.
For babies from age 6 weeks to 1 year
Sharing books is a way to have fun with your baby and to start him on the road to becoming a reader.
What to Do
1) Talk often with your toddler. When feeding, bathing, and dressing him, ask him to name or find different objects or clothing. Point out colors, sizes, and shapes.
2) Talk with your child as you read together. Point to pictures and name what is in them. When he is ready, ask him to do the same. Ask him about his favorite parts of the story, and answer his questions about events or characters.
3) Teach your toddler to be a helper by asking him to find things. As you cook, give him pots and pans or measuring spoons to play with. Ask him what he is doing and answer his questions.
4) Whatever you do together, talk about it with your child. When you eat meals, take walks, go to the store, or visit the library, talk with him. These and other activities give the two of you a chance to ask and answer questions such as, "Which flowers are red? Which are yellow?" "What else do you see in the garden?" Challenge your child by asking questions that need more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
5) Listen to your child's questions patiently and answer them just as patiently. If you don't know the answer to a question, have him join you as you look for the answer in a book. He will then see how important books are as sources of information.
6) Have your child tell you a story. Then ask him questions, explaining that you need to understand better.
7) When he is able, ask him to help you in the kitchen. He might set the table or decorate a batch of cookies. A first-grader may enjoy helping you follow a simple recipe. Talk about what you're fixing, what you're cooking with, what he likes to eat, and more.
8) Ask yourself if the TV is on too much. If so, turn it off and talk!