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You’ve been dreaming about hearing your baby say his or her first word since you laid eyes on him or her. You’re wondering what the word will be and what his or her voice will sound like. You’ll have a while to wait before you hear that first word though – it usually won’t be spoken until right around your baby’s first birthday.

While that first word is exciting, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The words they know and how they communicate them will influence everything from their grades in schools to how well they do with the relationships in their life. Being an effective communicator with a good vocabulary will always serve them well.

While they’ll learn to speak regardless of what you do as a dad, you can encourage their love of language and improve their vocabulary with your actions.

Talk to Your Child All the Time

This goes beyond saying the occasional love you or hi to your child. Talk with them every time you see them throughout the day. As you’re walking through the grocery store, tell your baby what you’re putting in the cart. Tell him what color the produce is as you grab it.

Talk to him about what you’re doing and where you’re going. It might seem a little strange at first if you’re not used to talking constantly, but before long it will seem like second nature. With every word you speak, you’ll be helping your baby develop its vocabulary.

Read to Your Baby

While your baby isn’t going to understand a plot or storyline at this age, a simple board book may hold her attention with their large pictures. Even though the books you have at this point won’t have a lot of words, children benefit from the ones that are there.

Limit the Electronics

Young children should have an extremely limited amount of television time and time with other electronics like tablets. Most television isn’t designed to be interactive, which is the best way babies and toddlers learn about language. They learn that conversations require give and take.

Some shows, like Sesame Street, are more interactive and can help them grasp concepts like counting and letter sounds. The best teacher, though, is you, if you make an effort to talk and read to them.

Make Animal Sounds

While your young child will pay attention to you no matter what you’re saying, some things will capture his interest more than others. Babies are naturally fascinated by animals. They like watching them, touching them, and hearing the sounds they make.

Whether you’re showing them a live animal or one in a book, they’ll love it if you start making sounds. They’ll be entertained, but they’ll also be learning. Once they’re old enough, they’ll love to make those sounds as well.

Keep An Eye On Your Baby’s Ears

Sometimes babies can have unrecognized ear infections. And while most ear infections are easy to cure, if they are allowed to go on without treatment they can cause hearing loss. And any hearing loss in a baby is likely to lead to language delays.

That’s why you should learn to recognize the signs of an ear infection and take your child in for a doctor’s visit if you suspect one. Symptoms you should look for in a child include fever, tugging of the ear, crying when on their backs, loss of appetite, fussiness, and ear drainage.

Follow Your Child’s Interests

Your baby is more likely to pay close attention to the things you say if it is something he or she is interested in. Trains, for examples, fascinate some children while others don’t care about them at all. Figure out what your child’s interests are and discuss them.

Give Them Sounds, Not Words

When it comes to learning language, your baby will first tackle easy-to-pronounce syllables, like ba or da. When your baby says those short gibberish words to you, they’re trying to communicate just as you do with them.

If your baby hasn’t said these one-syllable sounds yet, say some basic ones and see if she tries to repeat it. In the beginning, you may simply see your baby’s mouth moving as she or he tries to imitate you.

Teach Them Their Body Parts

To help expand your baby’s vocabulary and to help him or her learn that everything has a name, go over body parts. Show your child– on yourself first, pointing to your eyes, hair, ears, nose, and other parts. As you point to each one, say that body part’s name.

Then, after you’ve gone over your features, you can start going over your child’s features. Point to each part of his or her face and say what the name is. It won’t be long before your child can recite those body parts when you ask for their names.

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This blog is part of Fathers Incorporated‘s Drive To Five campaign. The campaign design seeks to reduce father absence by engaging dads at the early stages of their child’s development, which makes them more likely to continue their involvement through all of the stages of their development. For more information visit www.drivetofive.org

Posted by Fathers Incorporated

Fathers Incorporated (FI) is a national, non-profit organization working to build stronger families and communities through the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood. Established in 2004, FI has a unique seat at the national table, working with leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Family Law, and the Responsible Fatherhood Movement. FI works collaboratively with organizations around the country to identify and advocate for social and legislative changes that lead to healthy father involvement with children, regardless of the father’s marital or economic status, or geographic location. From employment and incarceration issues, to child support and domestic violence, FI addresses long-standing problems to achieve long-term results for children, their families, the communities, and nation in which they live.

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