This post opens up a series of posts for the parents of newborn babies who would like to work on communication habits with their children from the very first months.
My intention here is not to keep you engaged online, but to show you an example of an interaction that contributes to the development of your child’s language skills. It is likely that you are already doing it, in which case, I hope this offers reassurance. If you haven’t started talking to your child in this manner, then I hope that seeing this example will spark the habit.
All that you need to know at the moment is that each conversation is based on a number of rules that every human being needs to learn in order for a conversation to be a conversation. One of those rules is turn-taking. This is how we enact turn-taking with newborns and this is how they get used to the idea of a conversation:
Parent: What’s the matter? Are you hungry? (Parent lifts the child up.)
Child: Quietens down
Parent: Now, you’re much happier. You wanted me to pick you up. Do you want a rub on your back?
Child: Child makes incomprehensible noises.
Parent: Oh yes, I think you wanted a good rub on your back.
Parents: Oh this is what was bothering you. There was a burp trapped inside.
Parent: Oh, it looks like you want to go back to your cot. Let’s put you back to sleep. You do have very sleepy eyes. (Parent puts the child back to sleep.)
End of dialogue.
Learning how to build a dialogue starts with these small exchanges. This is how your child learns the exchange pattern. It is preverbal at the beginning, but the most important thing is that you notice these sounds and messages that your child is sending you and that you respond to them.
Enjoy your early conversations!
I’ll write to you again very soon.
Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini (BA, MA, CELTA, FHEA) is a language teacher and a part-time doctoral researcher in Multilingualism with a particular focus on Language Competence and Family Wellbeing. She is a bilingual speaker (Polish-English) and a mother of a trilingual 6 year-old (Polish, Italian and English).