By: Nazli K. Blackwell, M.S., CCC-SLP
Nazli K. Blackwell is a certified pediatric speech-language pathologist from Austin, TX. She is the mother of a 2-year old and is expecting her second child in December 2021. She enjoys sharing about child development on her Instagram @themontessorislp as well as creating sensory bottles for children of all ages with her small business Little Senses Co. When she isn’t working she enjoys yoga, hiking, and spending time with family.
One of the number one questions we get as speech-language pathologists, is “How can I encourage my baby’s language development?” There are countless ways to encourage language skills, but one of the simplest is to implement verbal routines alongside tasks of daily living!
What is a verbal routine? A verbal routine is anytime we repeat the same words, in the same order, in the same way. For example, when we say. “Ready? Set? Go!” We typically use the same tone of voice, and it becomes very predictable for our babies.
Repetition is KEY to language learning. Our babies are sponges for the language they perceive each day and repetition of that language is what strengthens their neural pathways. When we use verbal routines paired with an activity the motor and language parts of the brain work together to encode that information.
There are so many verbal routines out there! Songs, nursery rhymes, etc. I also truly love to make up my own! Here are a few examples of ways to implement a verbal routine in daily life:
1. Washing hands
Research has shown that pairing music with language helps to strengthen the memory of those words. While washing hands we can sing, “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands, this is the way we wash our hands, by using soap and water!”
We are pairing the motor action of washing hands, with the singing and language to go along with it. As our child gets more familiar with it we can pause and allow them to fill the blank. “This is the way we wash our _____.” Give them a moment and if they don’t answer fill in the blank yourself.
Over time your child will be able to sing the song by themself!
2. Diaper Changes
Diaper changes are a great opportunity for language learning and connection. There are several verbal routines that can be used during a diaper change to help narrate as you go. Not only does this help with language, but it also helps your baby to know what is coming next. Here is an example:
“Your diaper is wet!” (As you lay them down to change.)
“Let’s get dry!” (As you take the diaper off.)
“Time to wipe!” (As you wipe.)
“You’re all clean!” (As you secure a new diaper on.)
Again, as your child gets familiar with the verbal routine, you can do fill in the blank. “ Your diaper is ___” Pause and let them say, “Wet!” etc. An added bonus is increasing awareness for potty learning when the time comes!
3. Bath Time
Bath is another great time to work on language skills. From the time my son was 2 months old I was repeating this verbal routine for him:
“Scrubba dub dub, ______ in the tub!!”
Just insert your child’s name in the blank. Not only does it help prepare them for the transition to bath time but it also helps them to get familiar with and eventually verbalize their name!
Verbal routines work! Once you start to implement them they will become more automatic and ingrained in your daily routines. Happy language learning!