Babbling with your child

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Learn how you can communicate with your child who is babbling and how to respond to them.

Key points

  • A child who is babbling may be trying to say something or they may be praticing making sounds.
  • When your child babbles, you can copy their sounds to show you are listening and interested.
  • If you think your child is trying to tell you something, you can respond by putting their babbles into words.

When your child is babbling, they are often trying to tell you something. Even if you don’t know what your child wants to say, there are ways to respond so they feel their communication is meaningful.

Here are some tips to help you notice your child’s babble and know how to respond:

Pause and wait for your child to babble – When your child hasn’t started to use real words to communicate, parents often feel the need to 'fill in' the word or respond to their speech with answers. However, sometimes it’s okay to just say nothing and to wait for your child to say something when they are ready.

Observe your child – If your child is looking at or pointing to something while they babble, or trying to get your attention, they are likely trying to tell you something. If you observe your child babbling while they are busy playing or sitting on the floor and not trying to get your attention, maybe your child is just practicing making sounds.

Imitate your child’s babble – When you copy your child’s sounds, it shows them that you are paying attention to them and are interested in what they are saying. This in turn motivates them to babble again and then you imitate them again. Thus, reciprocal communication begins.

Be your child’s interpreter – If you think your child is trying to tell you something specific when they babble, respond by putting their sounds or syllables into words. For example, if your child looks at a car out the window and says "bababa", you could interpret this by saying, "Car! There's a car outside," while you point to the car. When you interpret your child’s message in this way, you provide labels for the things they are trying to communicate about. This will eventually build their vocabulary.

Last updated: November 3rd 2020