Year One – Post 9 | Baby Sees, Baby Says
In addition to his sense of hearing, a baby uses his sense of sight to develop his language skills – by both looking at you (and his other caregivers) and looking with you.
As a baby gazes at his caregivers, he will focus on their faces to “lip read.” He’ll begin to notice various lip and mouth movements, as well as when one word ends and another begins, and will put this information to work by practicing what he sees. Speech production utilizes almost 80 muscles, and babies will start with those that are strengthened first. This is why sounds made with the same parts and muscles used for sucking – “m,” “n,” “p,” “b” and “w,” and later “d,” “t,” “k,” “g” and “ing” – combined with the easiest vowel sounds, tend to be baby’s first words, “Mama” and “Dada” included. The “h” sound is also an easy one to make, as it only requires the baby to “pant.”
In addition to looking at his caregivers, a baby prepares for language learning by looking at his environment with them. At about four to six months, your baby will be able to follow the direction your eyes take when you shift from looking at him to looking at an object. He will also be responding to your directive to “look.” This develops a skill called “joint attention,” when two or more individuals focus on the same object, person or event. This skill is important for your infant because when the two of you are looking at the same object, your words about that object have more meaning for him. Talk about what he is seeing and doing at that moment, and you will have an attentive, active language learner.
– Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series