"Small Talk: How to Develop Your Child's Language Skills from Birth to Age Four" by Nicola Lathey and Tracey Blake is available now wherever books are sold.
What is the best way to develop your baby's language skills? It's simple — you talk to them.
One on one conversations with babies and toddlers have been proven time and time again to help develop their language skills. But as anyone who has stared deep into the eyes of a baby and attempted a conversation with them knows -- some guidance on what to chat about can be beneficial.
That's where journalists and authors, Nicola Lathey and Tracey Blake, come in. Their new book, "Small Talk: Simple Ways to Boost Your Child's Speech and Language Development from Birth," is filled with simple and fun activities to encourage and promote engagement with your baby.
In honor of the book's publication, we asked Blake to share her five best tips on how to get your baby talking.
1. Say what you see.
If there's one technique that will boost your child's speech, it's "Say what you see." With this strategy, which is all about learning through play, you provide gentle running commentary on what your child is doing at that moment. Follow your child's lead, observe her closely to see what interests her, comment on what's happening, and pause to allow time for the child to respond. We're naturally inclined to test, question, and direct our children, so the challenge is trying to stay in the moment, describing what they are doing rather than what you think they should be doing next. This powerful technique helps your child link what she hears to what she is doing.
2. Enjoy small talk time every day.
New research has confirmed how important it is to talk to your baby from birth, even before they can respond. At a bare minimum, you should spend at least ten minutes talking to your child every day. Of course, if you can spend more time talking with your little one, then do! Keep in mind that it's all about quality, not quantity. Aiming for ten minutes of uninterrupted time is achievable for most parents, and ten minutes can easily turn into more when you're having fun!
3. Set the scene for small talk time.
We all know how easy it is to get distracted. Yes, you're busy, but try to realize it when windows of opportunity arise and then make the most of them. It could be between supper and bedtime, or in the bath. Ensure the TV is off, phones are far away, and all devices are silent – all ears should be on you so your baby only has one source of information to process.
4. Be simple and clear.
Before a child can begin to speak, he needs to first understand what is being said. Once your baby can understand that something that is fluffy and says, "Woof, woof!" is a dog, he can begin to say the word. So when your toddler is under the age of one, for example, try to communicate in a very simplistic way, using lots of repetition.
5. Give reasons to communicate.
Mothers often try to pre-empt their baby's every need, but by doing this your child no longer has a reason to communicate with you. The next time your toddler points furiously at some cookies, pretend you don't understand and offer her a piece of fruit instead. Chances are that she will make her desire for a cookie very clear!
Tracey Blake is a journalist and editor at the Daily Mail where she writes the popular parenting blog Small Talk. She is a mother of two. Nicola Lathey is a children's speech and language therapist specializing in children under five. She has one daughter.