refine this repetition of vowels and consonants to
repeat the sounds heard in the language spoken in
their proximity. Infants respond to higher frequen-
cies; thus it is important to talk to infants using
infant-directed speech, commonly known as par-
entese (or motherese or caregiverese), a singsong,
higher-pitched speech that attracts young children.
To learn language, it’s not enough for you to just
talk nonstop in a singsong voice; young children
need to hear task-centered talking accompanied
with appropriate facial expressions and gestures
or pointing. Task-centered talking, a term coined
by David Sousa (1998), is a running narration about
what the child is doing or what is being done for
them (feeding, dressing, or bathing). It helps young
children hear the rhythm and cadence of language
as well as exposes them to vocabulary and syntax.
It describes what children see and what is happen-
ing in their environment. It helps connect meaning
to what is happening around them (Sousa 2006).
Hearing is a sense crucial for spoken language
acquisition. Children’s hearing should be checked
periodically by a physician, especially if their lan-
guage skills do not meet developmental milestones.
i n Fa n t & t o d d l e r a c t i v i t i e S
› use words and simple sentences to describe what
infants and toddlers are doing and to describe what you are doing with them, whether diapering,
dressing, or taking a walk. Your voice patterns will establish a beginning for understanding language.
use task-centered talking. › use a singsong and higher-pitched voice to hold
infants’ attention and help them learn language. Sometimes talk normally and sometimes whisper to
let infants hear the difference in volume, speed, and pitch of language.
› echo infants’ and toddlers’ verbalizations back to
them to help them learn. infants babble the vowels and later the consonants of the language spoken
around them. echoing reinforces their attempts at verbalization.
› play music that is restful before naptime and livelier
during playtime, but don’t have music on all the time. infants can block out continuous music, much
as adults stop hearing background music. Music boxes offer a pleasant sound as infants look at
mobiles or a baby gym. › Sing to infants often. Sing using a high voice, then
repeat using a normal or low voice. don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune. infants will love the sound.
› use nursery rhymes to let infants and toddlers hear
the cadence and rhythm of rhyming words. exagger- ate and vary voice pitch in reciting nursery rhymes.
› have a variety of rattles, balls, and toys that make
a noise when they move. this encourages the child to shake, roll, or pull to hear the noise.
› Many toddlers enjoy a jack-in-the-box and respond
to both the sound of the music box and the sound as the box opens and the clown pops out. Windup
toys often make sounds. › When you hear environmental sounds like a fan,
thunder, or the washing machine, mimic the sound, and explain what it is. encourage older infants and
toddlers to repeat the sound. as you read books or play with toys, incorporate sounds such as a duck
quacking or a car rumbling. Seeing
At birth, infants can see only things that are about
eight to twelve inches away from their face, just
the right distance for them to see the face of the
person holding them. And even then, that face is
blurry! Their eyes are receiving visual informa-
tion, but their brains have not yet developed the
receptors needed to see clearly. Their eyes develop
rapidly, and soon they learn to identify caregivers
by sight. After a few months, infants can follow
moving objects and turn and look when they hear
a sound. They can see objects that are farther away,
see the differences in colors, and begin to acquire
d e v e l o p M e n t o F t h e S e n S e S 15