Nurturing Pre-Verbal Skills: Fun Activities for Children and Parents

Pre-verbal skills play a crucial role in a speech and language development. As a parent, you can engage in simple yet powerful activities to jumpstart these capabilities in your baby from an early age. Let’s look at some easy ways to foster pre-verbal development through play!

Joint Attention Activities

Joint attention refers to the shared focus of two individuals on an object or event. It is a critical precursor to language development and social understanding. Here are some ways to encourage joint attention:

Interactive Reading

  • Choose Interactive Books: Pick books with flaps, textures, or sounds. These features attract your child’s attention.
  • Point and Name: While reading, point to and name pictures in the book. Wait for your child to look at the object you’re pointing to, establishing joint attention.
  • Follow Their Lead: If your child shows interest in a particular picture or page, spend more time there, discussing the images they’re drawn to.

Play with Purpose

  • Bubble Play: Blowing bubbles is an engaging activity where you can take turns with your child, focusing on the bubbles together. Try to catch or pop them, emphasizing shared attention.
  • Toy Play: Sit with your child and watch a toy (like a wind-up toy or a toy train) move. Talk about what the toy is doing as you both watch, encouraging your child to follow along with their gaze.
  • Peek-a-Boo: This classic game is fantastic for joint attention and turn-taking. The anticipation of your reappearance keeps them engaged and develops their understanding of object permanence.

Imitation Activities:

Imitation is the ability to mimic the actions or sounds of others. It’s a key step in learning language and understanding social cues.

  • Face to Face: Sit facing your child and make various facial expressions or sounds. Encourage your child to imitate you. This can include sticking out your tongue, opening your mouth wide, or making happy or surprised faces.
  • Action Replay: Perform simple actions with toys or objects, like knocking down a tower of blocks or pushing a car. Pause and give your child a chance to do the same.
  • Reverse the role: If your child stacks blocks or bangs a toy drum, do the same! Imitate the sounds they make and smile at them to engage them!
  • Sing and Gesture: Sing simple songs with gestures, such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Wheels on the Bus.” Perform the gestures and encourage your child to mimic them.
  • Instrument Echo: Use simple musical instruments like tambourines, drums, or shakers. Play a pattern and give your child a turn to copy it.
  • Dance Party: Put on some fun music and move! Dancing encourages imitation and body awareness while being a wonderfully joyful bonding experience.

Everyday Interactions:

  • Commenting on the child’s interests and actions: Parents can comment on what the child is doing or what is happening around them. Use simple language like, “You see the ball! It’s red!” This models language and encourages them to notice and focus on joint activities without the pressure to respond.
  • Turn-taking Games: Engage in simple turn-taking games like rolling a ball back and forth. This teaches your child about the back-and-forth nature of conversation and interaction.

By incorporating these activities into your daily routine, you’re not only enhancing your child’s pre-verbal skills but also strengthening your bond with them. However, we must remember to:

  • Keep it short and sweet: Young children have short attention spans. Frequent, brief interactions are more effective than longer sessions. Make learning fun and engaging.
  • Get down to your child’s eye level: Maintaining eye contact and facial expressions ensures that the child feels connected to you throughout and is attentive to your actions and words.
  • Celebrate every effort: Smile, clap, and cheer on their attempts to engage, imitate, and communicate. This positive reinforcement builds confidence. Patience and consistency are key, as every child develops at their own pace.
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