Language Tip: Teach babies about clothing!

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Dressing babies is a big part of their lives. It’s done multiple times a day, so it’s a great time to incorporate the language of dressing. Incorporating language with the task of dressing helps babies make connections between the words and the items. This is how they learn that a shoe is a shoe and pants are pants, because we tell them. They begin to develop an understanding, which helps prepare them for what’s happening when they are being dressed. This improves compliance and communication with babies.

There has been lots of talk about the things we wear in our home this week. At least twice a day for the last several days, I’ve bundled my son up in his winter clothing to go outside and explore the snow that we got this past weekend. In doing this, I’ve made sure to name the articles of clothing as I put them on him. I do this because each time I say and place my son’s socks, boots, hat, mittens and jacket on him, he forms a better understanding of what they are. The more he hears it, the more he learns about clothing’s characteristics, purposes and functions. He also learns how the words are said. Once he has a good understanding about clothing, he will be able to practice verbally saying the words. He is now saying “boos” for boots, “ha” for hat, and “mimi” for mittens.

Teaching littles about the things we wear helps with communication at bath time, when diapering, dressing and going outdoors. Talking clothing lets babies know what to expect. For example, in my son’s case, when I change his diaper and he’s throwing a fit I say, “we have to put on your pants, then we’re all done.” This helps to comfort him. At bath time I may say, “we need to take off your pants and shirt before we can take a bath.” My son loves baths, so this gets him going. Before going to bed I may say, “we have to put on your pajamas, then brush your teeth.” My son looks forward to brushing his teeth, so this helps with getting his pjs on.

My son also loves going outside and while I know what he wants, he has difficulty communicating it, resulting in frustration and meltdowns. When this happens, I take it as an opportunity to develop his communication skills. I give him simple directions to process and follow such as, “Go get your jacket and shoes, then we can go outside.” This works on his receptive language skills. He has to understand what I’m saying and do it before he is rewarded. He now goes and gets his shoes (most of the time) while saying “toos.” So cute!

Having a good understanding about articles of clothing allows children to be successful at the directions we give them related to clothing/dressing, if that makes sense. When we are successful at things, they are more enjoyable and we repeat them. This helps to develop compliance with dressing and effective communication. My son has certainly become more compliant with keeping his hat and mittens on, thank goodness!

Tips for Teaching Articles of Clothing:

-Name clothing as you put it on and take it off babies: “socks,” “pants,” “shirt,” “diaper”

-Name clothing as you put it on yourself: “mommy’s hat, daddy’s boots”

-Tell where the clothing goes: “hat on head,” “mittens on hands”

-Ask babies to find clothing on you, in books, on stuffed animals or in pictures: “Where’s mommy’s socks?” “Where’s the baby’s hat?” “Show me daddy’s pants.”

-Tell babies what the clothing does: “Socks keep our feet warm.,” “jacket keeps us dry,” “Mittens keep our hands warm,” “Shoes protect our feet outside.”

-Ask babies to follow simple directions with clothing: “Go get your jacket.,” “Put your hat on.,” “Bring mommy her boots.,” “Where’s daddy’s hat?”

-Name an article of clothing and have babies find it when mixed with others: For example, when my son’s hat, boots and gloves were laid out on the floor to dry, I said “Where are your mittens? Go get your mittens.” This practices listening, following directions and object identification.

-Let babies assist with doing laundry: Name the items as babies pull them out or put them in.

It’s never to early to begin naming articles of clothing with babies. You know I’ve been saying them to my son since the day he popped out. All words you say to babies helps to develop their understanding of language and how it works. I like to load babies up with common words that are in their everyday, things they see and interact with a lot. This way they remember and make connections. Around 12-18 months of age is a great time to place increased emphasis on the things we wear. This is when babies can really grasp what they are and actively engage in dressing themselves. Teaching about articles of clothing opens up a world of communication for toddlers. I challenge you to talk clothing with littles! Let me know if you have any questions.

Peace & Love,

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