Baby Talk and More

By | July 27, 2010

A Pat-the-Baby post by Lisa Kay Hauser

In   1998, when our oldest child graduated from high school, I was one of the youngest parents in attendance. In 2014, when our youngest child graduates, I will—very likely—be the oldest parent at the ceremony. The last chick in our nest starts high school in about three weeks. While that seems incomprehensible at times, it’s also almost as incredible that in the last several years, our daughter—the first-born—and her wonderful husband, have given us five incredible grandchildren.  We are blessed!

On Sunday afternoon this past weekend, I was holding our newest granddaughter, two-month-old Mara Grace.  She and I were having a chat. Mara Grace is at that precious stage when babies lock their eyes onto yours and mimic your facial expressions, turning their little mouths into perfect O’s and cooing, then bursting into gummy grins. Exquisite joy! I was carrying on a running conversation with her.

“Tell, me. What do you have to say? Is it important? I’m listening. Tell me all your secrets. Do you know how special you are? Well, you are! You are the most special baby in the whole wide world. Yes, you are! Yes, you are!”

After a few minutes I picked up her sweet little feet and began to play pat-a-cake.

Our oldest granddaughter, eight-year-old Mariah, came and leaned against my arm.

“Boppie, what are you doing?”

“I’m talking to the baby.”


“Because it’s important.”

“When do babies learn to talk back?”

I maintained eye contact with the baby and started answering Mariah in the same sing-song voice I had been using when talking to Mara Grace.

“She’s learning to talk back right now,” I said.

“She is?” Mariah didn’t sound convinced.

“She sure is, just by me talking to her, she’s learning to talk back to me. Listen to the little noises she’s making, and watch how she’s moving her mouth and sticking her tongue out.”

“But those aren’t real words, Boppie.”

“Not yet, but they will be.”

Imagine a baby’s brain as a giant electronic circuit board just waiting to be fired up. It needs a “spark” to get it started, but once there is stimulation, those sparks fly from neural path to neural path. They leap across voids as synapses fire and open new channels for growth and intelligence. Every time we speak to our babies, those synapses start jumping! Reading to your baby, singing to your baby, tickling down a little leg, or holding their hands in yours and clapping them together causes the synapses to fly!

What does playing pat-a-cake have to do with all this? Why it’s a treasure trove of synapse stimulation. The chanting stimulates the part of the brain that recognizes music and speech/language, the patting stimulates tactile (or touch) regions of the brain and fine and gross motor skills areas are awakened, oh—and equally important—you are stimulating the part of the brain that tells your baby they are important to you because you are interacting with him or her. Just from playing a 15 second game. Great results from so little invested time.

Of course, you’ll want to do it over and over when you see how excited your baby is. Try “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” They love that one. You may have to modify the movements with your two month old, but that’s okay. They won’t mind a bit. And while you two are having such a good time, remember your baby is learning how to focus attention, listen, talk—and to love.

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