When a child hears a lot of language during their first months and years of their life, and when he or she shares a special bond with at least one caring adult, that child is more likely to feel safe and confident, do better in school, and lead a healthy and happy adult life. 

Try out these fun tips when you spend time with your children:

Talk Together

“Spend time talking.” – Advice from a Montana parent

Babbling, laughing, facial expressions, and crying are some of baby’s first forms of communication—and it is important for a parent to respond, especially by using words. Although a baby does not understand words at first, he or she loves to hear the sound of your voice. So cuddle the baby close, laugh, sing, and talk to them throughout your day together.  Try these tips: 
  • It doesn’t matter if you use real or silly words, sounds or songs—just hearing your voice helps your child learn!
  • Talk your way through whatever task you are doing. For example, “I am ironing this shirt. It has crazy sheep all over it. It’s so soft.”
  • Name things as you go about your day together. You can do this in the car, at the grocery, at the doctor’s office, in the house, or out in nature. “Stoplight, watermelon, window, pond.”

“Listen to the crazy questions they ask!” - Montana parent

Toddlers are busy and curious. Their vocabularies are growing superfast! They need to hear a lot of language, and they love to ask and answer questions. Help them explore language—and the world—with these tips. 
  • It might take a toddler a little longer to respond to your questions. Give them time to respond. Show them you are listening by getting down on their level when they talk to you.
  • Children love to talk about familiar, favorite things. Talk about what interests them most.
  • Be a good speech model by using the correct names for things and speaking slowly and clearly. If he or she makes mistakes, try not to overcorrect.

“Pass on history, tell stories” – Montana parent

This is an exciting time! Your child is learning so much and starting to be able to grasp more complex ideas, like wishes, dreams, and the imagination. Here are some tips for talking with your preschool-age children.
  • Talk about other places in the world. Ask what your child thinks it would be like to live there. 
  • Share stories—made up or real! Make up a story of your own, or tell family stories about when you or your relatives were young. It is also great to ask your child to tell you the story of his or her day.
  • Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer.

Read Together

“Snuggle time, sweet and quiet” – Montana parent on what she enjoys about reading with her children

 It’s never too early to start reading to your baby—you can even start reading them stories before they are born. Snuggle in and use a soft, yet expressive voice. Point out things on the page and name them. When very young, your child they might only be engaged for a few minutes—this is fine and totally normal. You can always pick the book up again later. Try these fun tips when you read with your baby:

  • Books can come in very handy! Give your baby a book to take his mind off of diaper time, keep books in the car, in the stroller, or in the baby bag for when you need to give your baby something to do.
  • Exploring a book on his or her own or with you gives your child an opportunity to learn how a book works; simple skills like turning pages, holding a book right-side up, and understanding that you “read” from left to right are surprisingly important.
  • Older babies love looking at pictures of other children. Look for books that feature photographs of babies.
“Take time to unwind and read” – Montana Parent

Be prepared to read favorite stories—or even certain pages of a beloved book—over and over and over. This is great to do, as it helps your child learn about words and how they work. No matter how young a child is, reading and talking together is an introduction to the big, wide, world. Give these helpful tips a try: 
  • Make reading a part of your daily routine; you’ll both love relaxing and enjoying stories together.
  • Follow your child’s lead and let him or her choose books. Follow cues. If your child is interested, he or she will learn more.
  • Ask toddlers and preschoolers a lot of questions about the books. Give them a chance to respond, just like when you’re having a conversation.

“Encourage them to pick their own books.” –Montana parent

Books help children learn about both their immediate surroundings, and life in faraway places, what people have in common and what makes us different. You can use books to explore art, science, math, and the natural world.
  • Ask your child, “what do you think might happen?” and then ask them why.
  • Use stories as a starting place for talking about feelings. Ask your child why he or she thinks the main character is happy, sad, or excited. Have your child tell you about a time when he or she felt like the character in the story.
  • Make a book of your own! Use an old cereal box, scrap paper, or anything else you find around the house. Have your child draw the pictures and tell you about what is happening.

Additional Tips:

Sing Together
  • You and your child will have a blast making instruments out of everyday objects. Dried beans in closed containers make awesome shakers, and you can experiment with sound by blowing into bottles holding different amounts of water.
  • Music plays an important role in many cultures. Do you know any traditional songs that you can sing or listen to with your child?
  • Babies and children love the sound of music and singing. Plus, rhythm, rhyme and repetition help them to better understand language. Try clapping out the beat when you read a book that rhymes.

Count Together
  • Use everyday objects to practice math concepts. Have your child count items like bath toys, magnets, and silverware—whatever is around!
  • Use things like buttons or blocks to help your child sort according to size, shape, and color.
  • Patterns are everywhere. From a zebra’s stripes to tiles on the floor, point out fun and interesting patterns to your child every day. Make patterns of your own by ordering fruits or veggies on a plate—carrot, celery, pea, carrot, celery, pea—and then eat them!

Explore Together 
  • Weather is an early science concept. Talk about what is happening outside as you get your child ready in the morning—do you need a hat for the sun, boots for the rain, a warm jacket for the snow and the wind?
  • Cooking is a wonderful time for your child to learn about math and science. Talk about hot and cold, measure according to recipes, and discuss what you notice.
  • Talk about the changing seasons with your child; explain that leaves fall in autumn, water freezes on the lake in winter, flowers bloom in spring, and the ground gets hot and dry in summer.

Play Together
  • Play gives children a chance to get creative, try out their language skills, imagine what life is like in other places, and exercise! Playing together with your child is also an opportunity to bond.
  • Tell your child about what you liked to do for fun when you were his or her age.
  • Act out a favorite story together. Use everyday items for costumes—make a hula skirt by shredding an old paper bag, or cut a crown out of a cardboard box.