If your little one is anything like baby J, chances are they love animals! Children are fascinated with animals and that makes for a fantastic opportunity for communication. In our house, our pet cat Roger (or Roger 4th to give him his full title) has been a favourite 'toy' of baby J's since she was old enough to realise he existed. Since then their bond and dare I say friendship has gone from strength to strength and 'Roger' or 'cat' were two of the first words she was able to understand. As much as I'd like to, I'm not here to tell you about the budding friendship between baby and cat but instead how fun it is to play with animal sounds in your daily activities with your little ones.
If your baby or toddler is just starting to experiment with sounds or maybe even first words, animal noises are a great place to start and here are some reasons why....
Early Speech Sounds
You may have noticed that when your baby first started to babble they used one or several of the sounds 'b' 'm' 'd' or 'p'. (They may use other sounds too and that's great!) What's good about these early sounds is that they lend themselves perfectly to introducing animal sounds such as 'baa baa', 'moo moo' or 'meow'. Babies often smack their lips together too like a 'p' or a kiss sound and in our house we turn that into the fish sound. Baby J is a big fan of the 'a' sound too so we are able to say 'quack quack' or 'roar', with her joining in with her 'a a' sound. Babies and young children are great at copying and that's how they start to learn talking but real words can be a little tricky at first. Animal sounds are a great starting point as it allows them to use sounds they may already use in babble but link them to a more meaningful thing...an animal!
Animals are everywhere!
It seems there's not a day that goes by where animals don't feature in baby J's books, toy box or outside adventures but actually, it's great! Repetition is the perfect way to help children learn to talk. Baby J's two absolute favourite activities to do (other than torment Roger the cat) are playing with her Old McDonald tractor and playing with her animal noisy books. This means that we're constantly copying the animal noises together and she loves to try and mimic them pressing the noisy buttons all day long. Usually, those same animals then crop up in her story books at bed time as animals are usually the characters in books at this age. You can just imagine the little cogs in her head turning as she realises she's seen that monkey elsewhere too and...it also goes 'ee ee oo oo'!
We all know it's fun to make silly noises and for babies, having a go at copying all these strange sounds they keep hearing is really enjoyable and part of the joy of learning to talk. The look baby J gives us when we give the pig snort or elephant trumpet our best effort is priceless and although she doesn't copy these yet she's hearing the words 'pig' and 'elephant' and the sounds they make loads of times which will help her to build those associations. When she does give an animal sound a go she gets such a huge reaction from us that she then keeps trying. Animals are also fun because they are real life, moving, noisy things too! When we take baby J to see the ducks she seems amazed that these things actually exist outside of her bathtub. She smiles away hearing them quack and we copy the animal sounds again too. I think she probably thinks we're mad!
So whether your child is already copying animal noises, saying the real words or just showing an interest in them, here are some ideas to try out at home:
Singing: There's loads of great nursery rhymes that use animal sounds that your baby or young child can start to join in with. Try some verses of Old McDonald Had a Farm, 5 Little Ducks or Baa Baa Black Sheep. You can hold up the real object of the animal as you sing the verse to help your child learn which animal you are singing about.
Books: Books are great because children love to hear them on repeat (maybe more times than you'd care to read them!) At the moment, as well as our noisy books we love 'Dear Zoo' 'Spot the Dog' and 'That's Not My Duck'.
Trips out: A walk to the duck pond or to trip the farm are great opportunities for children to make the links between their pictures and toys and the real life animal. For learning language, this is also great because you can describe what the animal is doing at the time such as, "the duck is swimming."
Borrow a pet: Roger the cat is always a hit when Baby J's friends come to play so why not ask a friend who has a pet if you can pop round to visit. You'll be amazed at all the language learning opportunities there are and you might even a hear a real 'meow' instead of just your impersonation!
Has your little one perfected an animal sound? Do they have a favourite animal book or toy? We'd love to hear from you so please comment below and let us know.