A relaxing, predictable bedtime routine is a great way to help babies and young children (and us!) wind down in preparation for a restful night. The time before bed provides a great time to bond and connect before sleep, it is also an opportunity to incorporate communication and language learning.
We asked Lisa Welch, specialist Speech and Language Therapist and mum to two young boys, to shares some ideas with us on speech and language support we can easily incorporate into our daily routines at home.
Bedtime is a fantastic place to start nurturing those early communication skills right from day 1!
From the very start you may find yourself either falling into, or seeking out a bedtime routine. A sequence of events that happen every evening in the lead up to bedtime and sleep. This is a fantastic place for communication and language learning. When we repeat things over and over again they are easy to learn from. A routine or a sequence can be easily anticipated and responded to and therefore makes the perfect place for communication!Lisa Welch – Speech and Language Therapist
A bedtime story:
Even as a newborn, reading together is fantastic for early communication skills. Most stories will have a steady rhythm and flow which will be comforting for little ones. Having the time to cuddle while reading, supports connection whilst hearing your voice will be soothing. As little ones become older they will be more engaged with the story itself, able to focus on the pictures, key words and vocabulary within the book. So as strange as it may seem to read to such a tiny newborn, it will lay the foundation for a wonderful language rich, cuddle filled, end to the day.
Singing nursery rhymes to your little one may be something you do almost automatically but it’s got a bit of hidden magic to it! Nursery rhymes are repetitive, rhythmic, engaging, use facial expression, anticipation and often have actions. These are all perfect for nurturing early interaction skills and first words. As you sing to your baby, leave an extra long pause, smiling and maintaining a face to face gaze. This will spark anticipation for the next line of the song. You may find your little one reacts to this gap by laughing, smiling or babbling at you – this is their very first conversation!
Our first few bath times with both my boys were a bit of a splashy, tearful commotion if I’m honest! But once we had worked out how to get the water right and hold them so they felt safe, it quickly became one of my favourite times of the day. One of the great things about bath times is that a lot of the things that distract us at other points in the day are gone – there are no TV’s, no jobs on the go, no phone calls or messages because all of that has to be put to one side while we really focus on bath time safety. Our little ones are at arms length and we are face to face with them. These are the perfect conditions for language learning! Smile and chat to your baby as you bathe them. Name the body parts you are washing, sing a bath time song or slowly tickle from their toes up to their nose, smiling and naming body parts as you go.
End of Day Chat:
This is my favourite! As the day draws in to a close, sit with your little one on your lap, cuddle in, be face to face and tell them all the best bits from the day – big or small find the little treasures from the day and recall them with your baby. Now as a newborn the benefit is in just hearing your voice and feeling your connection. As an older baby they will start to focus on your facial expressions, watch your mouth move and the expression in your eyes. As a toddler the words will hold real meaning, they too will recall the activities and link the language and the actions together, building their vocabulary and narrative skills. For us as parents the benefits are there too. Even on the toughest, the longest, the teariest days; we will need to pick one or two things that went well. That we enjoyed, and that we thrived in, so that we can recall and share again with our little ones. This does wonders for our own mindfulness and reminds us we have done a good job, even when it’s felt tough!
I hope these have given you some ideas for building language and communication into your bedtime routine. I was so thrilled to be asked and want to say a big Thank you to Rosey for having me on her blog.
To find out more about Lisa Welch, you can visit her website PeachySpeech.co.uk
If you would like to know more about your child’s sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.