Kids start developing communication skills from the moment they’re born. Newborns quickly begin to recognize important sounds in their environment, such as their parents’ voices. As they grow, babies begin to recognize the sounds that form language, such as the way syllables, words, and sentences work.

The first three years of a child's life are the most critical for speech and language development because the brain is best able to absorb language during this period. That’s why it’s important to talk, listen, read, sing, and play games with young children. It teaches important language skills that will last a lifetime!

Listen – Children’s babble is their way of communicating. Don’t ignore it! Respond to their sound and have real conversations. Mimic the sounds they make. Learn their language!

Move – Fun fact! Babies can dance before they can walk or talk. Infants and toddlers benefit from moving to the rhythm of music. Turn up the music and hold them as you dance around. Shake your arms to the music and see if they follow. When your child is listening for sound and paying attention to your movements, essential reading skills are developing!

Play – Become your child’s favorite toy! Grab whatever is nearby, a blanket or a book, and use it play peek-a-boo. Hide behind the toy, say “peek-a-boo,” and then let them be the hider. This teaches babies an important lesson that you exist even when they can’t see you.

Talk – Talking to babies isn’t just great for their development, it’s also a great way to encourage infants to bond with their dads and moms. Talk to your baby about mundane, everyday things. Tell them what the weather was like; what you had for lunch; describe what you see as you’re driving around. You are building their vocabulary and communication skills.

Show – Children experience emotions too! Mirror the emotions they are feeling by making faces. Talk to them while you do this, so they learn to associate words with emotions. Have conversations with just your expressions. These “conversations without words” will help them read and understand other people.

Read – It’s never too early to start reading to baby. In fact, reading to newborns is shown to boost brain and language development.

Even though babies can’t respond to you verbally just yet, they’re listening to every word you say, and their brains are growing rapidly! Keep up with their development by incorporating age appropriate activities that are not only fun, but also educational.

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Promoting early brain development is part of HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative, which is aimed at improving the health and well-being of children from pregnancy through age five. Brain, cognitive and behavioral development early in life are strongly linked to health outcomes later in life, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, drug use and depression. Learn more about HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative.