I just about cried the moment my 16-month-old daughter looked at me and audibly said “mama.”
It was a moment of jubilation, I wanted to shout to the neighbours, “my daughter is talking, and she might be a genius or at least a future member of Mensa. This is the beginning of something great folks!”
Then I turned around and noticed she was pointing at everything from her stuffed animals to her pyjamas and calling them mama. In fact, she spent the rest of the day repeating mama over and over again. Needless to say, humbleness returned to the VanLochem household.
Since the first “mama” was uttered, I think my daughter has gotten the hang of things. When she wants a cookie, she looks at me, smiles and ever so sweetly says mama. When she wants milk? Mama. Hug? Mama. More cookies? Mama.
That girl has my number. It’s tough to resist, but I must. After five cookies and a litre of milk, I put my foot down. Don’t judge. Babies cannot live on cookies alone, regardless of how sweetly they ask.
According to parents.com and other trusty online forums, by the first birthday, your baby will probably begin to use one or two words meaningfully. Over the next few months, your little one will try to copy words and you may hear him or her babbling away, as if your baby is having a real conversation. Your baby may even practise speech sounds, raising his or her tone when asking a question.
This is true in our house. In fact, I think my daughter has a swearing problem. When my little one is angry or upset about something, the baby profanities start to fly. I swear she is trying to rip a strip off me in her own little babbling language. It’s fierce.
The language barrier between a young toddler and parents is a bit of a soul-sucking black hole. Baby sign language is a great idea to keep the communication lines open while your toddler tackles the finer points of speech. Some toddlers develop a whole sign language of gestures to communicate with their parents. My daughter loves banging her fists on the table when the food isn’t coming fast enough.
I am told that frustration is actually a healthy sign my baby is trying hard to communicate and cares whether I understand her. I’m holding onto that.
Not to brag, but my daughter’s words are improving at a mind-boggling rate and yet her ability to understand me when I speak is not always so amazing. Here are a few examples of how life gets lost in translation with a toddler.
Me: “Time for a nap.”
Baby hears: “We are putting you in solitary confinement for the rest of your life.”
Me: “Don’t touch the toilet bowl water.”
Baby hears: “Go ahead and give yourself a facial with that water. Drink it up”
I think my daughter understands more than she lets on. According to my trusty online sources, a.k.a high-spirited mom chat rooms, parents have a huge impact on their children’s language and speech skills. Reading to your child is one of the best ways to help your baby start talking up a storm. The more you encourage your child to chat, the better your little one will do in preschool and beyond.
So maybe shouting the good news of first words to the neighbours isn’t such a bad idea after all. Let’s celebrate the words and prepare for the oncoming speech tsunami.
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