Last week we addressed some of the factors that come into play before children develop their first words, namely eye contact and joint attention. Today, we’ll discuss two more pre-linguistic skills: gesture and sound play.
Gesture: Long before a child is able to use words to communicate, they will use gestures. When a child points to his favorite toy that’s out of his reach or signals with open hands that his snack is “all gone”, they are using pre-linguistic skills to make himself understood. This is an early, basic example of a child’s understanding that he can use strategies to communicate his thoughts and ideas to others. This basic understanding is the foundation for communication and language.
Sound Play: At about eight weeks into a child’s life, they will begin to make a sound called “cooing”. This involves making vowel sounds, such as “oooh” or “ah-ah-ah”. As cooing develops, the area of the child’s brain that controls speech is developing rapidly. Following this, the child will begin to babble. This is more difficult than cooing in that it involves using the tongue and front of the mouth to add consonants to her sounds, for example “ba-ba-ba” or “ma-ma-ma”. Over time, this babbling will become more complex, interchanging sounds and developing a conversational tone. Eventually, the child will use these sounds as they reference people or objects. Even though the actual words aren’t there, this displays and early understanding that sounds can represent people, things, and events.
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