Build your child’s background knowledge by talking

Babies and young children can understand much more than we think they can. From the very first day of their life, they embark on the journey of decoding: from sounds to words, from words to meanings. In addition, they are trying to translate from expressions to emotions, from touches to feelings, etc.

By talking with them, you are helping them to make sense of the surroundings, sharing your feelings, connecting sounds, words and meanings.

As you go through the day, communicating with them about what you are doing can give them a lot of background knowledge, which is beneficial for their future exploration. For example, when changing diapers, do the These are baby’s fingers finger play with your baby.

Here are some tips when you talk with your child:


  • Singing songs and using rhymes can better get babies’ attention.
  • Using finger plays can help them correlate body parts and sounds, for example:

These are baby’s fingers. (holding baby’s fingers)
These are baby’s toes. (holding baby’s toes)
This is baby’s belly button. (point to baby’s belly button)
And round and round it goes. (make circles around baby’s belly button)

  • Use a lot of expression to make talking more interesting and engaging.


  • Repeating words and phrases can give them the time to digest their meanings and correlate sounds to objects.
  • When kids just start to mumble, they may start with simple sounds or words. By asking questions about what they mean by those sounds, kids get the opportunity to hear a more accurate expression.
  • Remember to give them time to digest and respond. Be patient!


  • Talking with them anytime, at anywhere about anything can effectively extend their vocabulary.
  • Turning off electronic devices when talking with them can reduce distractions
  • Pay attention to what they’re interested in and ask questions or make comments.

-Xuan, Children's Librarian at Joel D. Valdez Main Library

Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play!

The day children are born, their brains are primed for language. Talking with your child about anything and everything helps them build oral language skills, which are critical to early literacy!

Read more about early literacy and how you can make a difference in your child's life.