How to Talk to Babies

One of the things we say again and again in storytime is: Talk to your baby! But knowing what to say to a baby, especially when they are newborns, can be daunting and even perplexing to caregivers. While I don’t think there is one “right” way to talk to babies, there is research-based methods that have proven effective in building the neural connections in a baby’s brain that leads to language development. And you know I’m all about the science!

Last November Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, came to Vancouver to give a talk on her book and executive function (remember our previous discussion about EF?).  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend but my friends who did attend came back with some great information I’d like to share here. Galinsky has been involved in the development of an app that delivers science-based early literacy tips to parents, educators, and caregivers. It’s called Vroom.  Anyone struggle to come up with practical early literacy tips to say in storytime? What a great resource! Their website has this great 5-step guide on how to grow a child’s brain power.

My co-worker Kate Lowe saw this guide and turned it into an acronym that she now uses in babytime and in her outreach visits to teach caregivers how to talk to babies and toddlers. Her acronyms is L.A.T.S. and here’s a way to present it to caregivers:

Look

  • See what catches your baby’s eye.  Name it and talk about it.

Adult Follows

  • Let your child lead.  Respond to their sounds, actions, and expressions. Copy them or describe what they are doing.

Take Turns

  • Have back and forth conversation.  Pause after you speak.  Guess what your baby would say back to you if they had the words.

Stretch

  • Stretch the moment. Build on the conversation. Ask open ended questions like “How does that feel in your hand?” or “What do you think about that?”  Feel free to answer for your baby.

Kate also provided this example of what it might look like with a child.

Look

  • You see the ball!

Adult Follows

  • Are you reaching for it? Like this?

Take Turns

  • *Pause* You are? Wow, looks like you almost have it.

Stretch

  • Is it rough?  Does it feel bumpy?

I think the LATS model would be super easy to demonstrate during storytime, especially if you have playtime afterwards. A special thank you to my friend and colleague Kate Lowe for continuing to share her ideas here on Jbrary!

 

 

2 thoughts on “How to Talk to Babies

  1. Dear Dana and Lindsey,
    I sure hope my request makes it to you. I use your wonderful songs and finger plays with reading times to toddlers. Could you please suggest particular ones that help build self regulation in little ones? That would be so helpful.
    Thanks,
    Talley Dunn

    1. Hi Talley, yes your request made it 🙂 Self regulation is also known as/part of executive function. If you search “executive function songs for toddlers” or something like that you’ll get lots of ideas. I would recommend these two resources which contain way more than I can list here. The first is a free webinar called “Using Storytime to Grow Executive Function and Self-Regulation in ECE” and you can view it here: https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/presentations/using-storytime-grow-executive-function-self-regulation-ece-setting-stage-success/
      The second is a document with song and game suggestions by age developed by Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child: https://children.wi.gov/Documents/Harvard%20Parenting%20Resource.pdf
      These two should set you up with many ideas for how to help little ones build those important skills. All the best!

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