Elli has begun babbling over the last few weeks. It’s so fun to watch her get excited about her own voice. In my house we all love to talk so it’s fun to see Elli developing this same trait.
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I’d originally thought I’d just share some info about babbling today, but after reading up on this stage of language development, I have some pretty interesting stuff to tell you about.
First, I’ve always been fascinated by how babies can breathe, suck and swallow all at the same time and while lying down. If we try that trick we choke, so how do babies do it? Young babies are physically different from adults! They have a larger tongue and their epiglottis (which covers the air’s pathway from mouth to lungs) is longer and is actually in contact with the palate completely covering the air’s pathway. This helps babies not choke on or inhale their food as they lie and breathe and suck and swallow! It also means babies can’t breathe through their mouths and why it’s so important to keep their noses clear and unstuffy. I knew my babies preferred to breathe through their noses; I didn’t realize they couldn’t breathe through their mouths.
So starting about 4 months babies mouths and throats undergo some drastic changes that affect speech development. First, the oral cavity (mouth) gets bigger so the tongue doesn’t take up as much space in their as it did. Also, the epiglottis begins to separate so air begins to flow through the mouth. The vocal tract also lengthens. With more room to move their tongues around and some air to move along the vocal tract, babies beging to vocalize.
The first stage of babbling is called expansion babbling. Babies start with vowel sounds, raspberries, squeals and growls. This usually lasts while the baby is 4-6 months old. Between seven and ten months babies move into the second stage of babbling called canonical babbling. Here is where they begin putting vowels and consonants together. They begin to say the same syllables over and over, “bababa” “dadada” and so on.
While babies’ babbling sounds a lot like speech in the intonation and rhythm of the language, research shows that babies are not trying to communicate at this stage. They are making sounds for the sake of making sounds. They are exploring how they can manipulate their voice just like they practice manipulating toys or objects with their hands. Research shows that the intonation patterns of babies reflect the intonation patterns of the language(s) they hear at home. The actual consonant-vowel sounds they make, according to research, though, are not yet language specific.
Some ways we can capitalize on this stage of language development:
- Repeat your babies sounds showing that you are paying attention and find important the things your baby says. This helps babies develop an understanding of the communicative nature of language and also to trust that you will listen.
- Offer some new sounds for your baby to try. Babies love imitation. They will watch the way you make a sound and try to do it too. Actually, this is true for children in all stages of language development. Sammi still imitates our sounds and watch for how to make difficult sounds or words.
- Associate a silly action with a specific sound. Everytime your baby squeals, clap your hands; everytime your baby blows a raspberry, touch her nose. This helps babies develop the concept of cause and effect and see that they can be initiators in causing an action to happen. This is a really fun game and babies love games.