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When you gather around the table for a meal with your family, it’s an experience that enlivens your senses: the aroma of the simmering pot, the feel of the napkin on your mouth, the vivid color of your food, and the sound of utensils against your plate. It also can be a highly social time of stories, laughter, and everyday traditions. Do you remember sharing special moments with your family at dinner, or in the playground, or on a roadtrip?
The Importance of Sharing
How you interact with your child helps develop their spoken language. It’s vital to share quality interactions with your child from day one. We call this “Serve and Return,” the sharing of communication, and use of strategies to talk about both what your child is seeing and experiencing and what you as their parent are seeing and doing. You can do this every day: talking about your daily routines, your child’s play routines, and your family’s social routines. Research supports that early brain development occurs when parents are “sharing” communication with their child.
How to Serve and Return The way you care for and interact with your baby is the most important job you have to influence the growth of your baby’s brain. Babies are born with a brain that is ready to learn spoken language, recognize speech, and understand and use words to talk. Serve and Return is a shared exchange between you and your baby.
When you have a positive interaction with your baby, like imitating the sounds they are making to encourage them to make more, you are helping to shape their brain for a lifetime of learning. These experiences change the brain by growing the connections needed to learn to have conversations with friends, read books, create art, think about and solve problems, and do well in school. These early experiences also have a significant impact on social skills and the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others.
So how does this work? The ears are like a doorway to the brain that lets sound and language in. Your baby's brain needs sound as early as possible to build the neural connections that will help them learn from all of the wonderful experiences you provide. If your baby has hearing loss, that doorway to sound isn't completely open – at least, not yet. Today, it’s possible to open that doorway to the brain with hearing technology and medical care so that your baby can get the auditory information they need.
Everyday Routines are a Teaching Moment Every day is a learning day for your baby. In fact, you are their first and most important teacher. Your baby can learn and grow from being part of your everyday activities. You can share a running commentary, or play-by-play, of these moments. Some are daily living routines, such as feeding, dressing, and diaper changing, that have to happen every day – no matter what the day is like. Then there are play routines you can do with your baby, such as pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo; and social routines, like going to special events, outings, or celebrations. You may think of these as ordinary moments but they are also rich opportunities to support your child’s learning and development.
Establishing consistent routines for your baby offers the chance to engage in serve and return interactions and to build their self-confidence, curiosity, social skills, self-control, communication skills, and more. There are a lot of learning opportunities in your daily, play, and social routines because they are repetitive and natural, yet structured for you and your baby to enjoy together.
A Focus on Reading Aloud You don’t have to be a reading teacher to teach your child literacy skills. Reading aloud is simple, and it’s one of the most important activities that you can do with your child to get them ready for reading and learning. In fact, just 15 minutes a day of reading aloud can make a big difference! When you make reading together a daily habit in your family, you’re preparing your child for school success.
Along with Serve and Return and sharing everyday routines, you should make reading part of your daily routine with your child, as you work towards goals of listening, spoken language, and literacy. It may seem overwhelming to add reading to an already busy schedule of caring for your baby, attending audiology appointments, and weekly intervention sessions. But, every minute counts! If you look for opportunities, you’ll find time to read aloud in many of your regular daily activities. Include all family members, caregivers, and even older siblings in the reading routine. Your baby will enjoy listening to all of the different voices and will begin building the foundation for a lifetime of literacy.
Join Our Community No matter where you are on the journey, you can find power in community. Join the Hearing First Family Support Community today and connect, share, grow and learn with others on the LSL journey.
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