Your baby has a lot to think about during her second month. When will she get fed? What are those shapes dangling above her crib? Who are those people who keep picking her up, and why do they make such strange sounds?
Understanding language is one of your baby's most important jobs in the first few years of life. Believe it or not, she's already starting to polish her skills. Her communication has certainly evolved beyond crying, which is one of the main ways she lets you know her needs. Now she'll open up her hands to greet people, and she'll respond to your smiles with toothless grins. She can also convey her amusement and joy with squeals and coos. She may even start experimenting with simple vowel sounds such as ah-ah-ah and oh-oh-oh, especially if she's had many chances to hear you speak.
Your baby learns through listening, so be sure to talk to her often. Here are some things to keep in mind as you introduce her to the world of language:
- Pick the right time. Wait until your baby is in the mood for a conversation. She'll let you know with smiles, eye contact, and body language. If she indicates she is over-stimulated or uninterested by turning away or letting her eyes glaze over, don't feel rejected. Rest up and try again later.
- Keep her engaged. Your baby is smart enough to get bored, so you have to work a little to hold her attention. Use animated gestures and facial expressions. Vary your tone of voice and mood.
- Give her a chance to respond. Rather than gabbing in a monologue, pause frequently to allow her to gurgle back, or just process the sounds she has just heard. Ask questions and allow her to "answer."
- Use her name. Although she is still too young to recognize it, hearing her name now will help her begin to form the association.
- Imitate her sounds. Copy your baby's squeals and gurgles to let her know she is being heard and encourage her continued experimentation.
- Give a running commentary. The more language a baby hears, the more she is able to assimilate, so describe your daily routine to her as it happens. It might feel silly at first to say, "Now we put on your socks" as you dress her, but with a little practice it will come naturally.
- Read to your baby. It's never too early to expose your child to books. Share favorite nursery rhymes or Dr. Seuss books with your infant; she will love the sing-song rhythm of such tried-and-true favorites.
- Sing to your baby. Music is thought to stimulate the portions of the brain responsible for language, so singing is a perfect brain-building activity for this age. Use old stand-bys like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Old McDonald" or create your own. Your infant will delight in even the most off-key rendition of a familiar song.
At this age, she doesn't need tapes, videos, or flashcards to stimulate her brain. She just needs you.
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. Little, Brown and Company.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. Bantam Books.
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Baby Bouncer. Second month: Parent-baby learning game. September 2000. http://www.fcs.uga.edu/pubs/current/CHFD-E-39-02.html