How to Practice Speech and Language With Your Child in a Carrier

When it comes to learning to talk, children learn the most from their parents and caregivers. So if you’ve got a baby or toddler at home, there’s plenty you can do to help them develop their foundational communication skills. 

You might be thinking, “That sounds great! But how will I make time to practice with them? And what should I even do?”

The fact is, you can practice speech and language with your child during the daily routines you’re already doing: getting ready for daycare or school, running errands, cooking a meal, taking a walk–and the list goes on!

For many parents, wearing their baby or toddler in a carrier is a regular routine. In this article, we’re sharing 5 easy tips for growing your child’s communication skills while you carry them. 

1 Talk out loud about what you’re doing

The first way to practice speech and language with your little one can be done right before you put them in their carrier. 

There’s probably a reason you’re loading them in the carrier. Maybe you need to do some things at home with your hands free. Maybe you’re heading to the store or getting ready for the daily commute. Or perhaps your child is fussy or sleepy and just needs to be close to you. 

Whatever you’re doing, talk to your child about it, even if they can’t yet respond with words. This is called natural language modeling. It gives your baby or toddler the chance to hear lots of different speech sounds and words. Hearing you talk helps them learn how words are put together to form sentences. They also learn the natural intonation we use in our voices.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re going to put your child in their carrier when you get to the grocery store. You can provide some natural language modeling by describing your actions:

“I’m parking the car! It’s time to get out. Let’s unbuckle.” [Get them out of the car seat.]

“Time to get in.” [Set them in the carrier.]

“We are walking to the store. It’s a beautiful day! Let’s go inside.”

You can continue talking to your child as you shop for groceries. The key is to simply talk about what you’re doing–a sort of natural narration. Remember, even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re soaking up everything you say. Not to mention, if you’ve got a baby, hearing the comfort of your voice while they lie against your chest may put them right to sleep. That’s a win for baby–and for you!

2 Look at each other, or in the mirror

For this activity, if you have an infant that needs to face you in the carrier, keep them facing inward. If you have a bigger child who, per the carrier’s safety instructions, should be facing away from you in the carrier, you can try this activity by looking in the mirror together. Either way, the goal is to find a way for your child to watch your face as you engage with them.

To do this activity, simply look at your child and make silly faces and noises. This allows your child to observe your different facial expressions and hear new sounds and sound combinations in a fun way. 

Face-to-face interaction is an excellent way for your child to practice early imitation skills. Babies can learn to do what others do by imitating facial expressions and babbles. 

Imitating actions and sounds is a stepping stone on the way to imitating words. So if your child isn’t talking yet, you can help them get there with engaging tasks like this. Try making it fun by singing songs and really exaggerating your facial expressions. Your little one will love this!

3 Practice specific words related to actions in the carrier

Think about some fun things you could let your baby or toddler experience as they’re in the carrier. Maybe you can “bounce” them or “spin” around slowly. And of course you’ll “walk” with them in the carrier. These are all action words you can teach and talk about as you do them together. 

You can talk about words like “up” as you stand up, and “down” as you lower yourself down or bounce gently. You can also use words like “go” and “stop” to help your child learn these concepts. 

If your child is old enough to start asking for things, you can try teaching them to request “go” or “more,” by either making signs or using words.

4 Practice environmental sounds while you’re outside

While you’re out and about, practice environmental sounds with your baby. These might be animal sounds or the sounds of cars, trucks, or other vehicles.

So if you’re at the park and see a dog, talk about the sound the dog makes and let your child hear you say it. If a loud horn blares, make that sound, too. You can say, “Beep beep! I heard the car horn. Horn goes ‘beep!’” 

While meowing like a cat or “wee-oohing” like a siren can feel like simple play, learning to make animal and vehicle sounds is a big step in a toddler’s expressive language skills. At first, you’ll probably just be listening to yourself make these sounds. But eventually, your baby should begin imitating you. This will likely start happening when they’re between 9 and 12 months old

5 Read together while your child’s in the carrier

If your toddler is always on the move, then reading together while they’re snug in the carrier is a perfect scenario. They’re a captive audience!

For babies, reading is a wonderful language modeling opportunity–a chance for them to hear language as you read to them. For toddlers who can face out in the carrier and see the book, they benefit from being able to see the pictures associated with the words you’re using

Regardless, the benefits of reading to your child are endless. Consider this one mind-blowing stat: One study revealed that when parents read just one book a day to their child, by the time that child enters kindergarten, they’ve heard a total of 1.4 million more words than children who aren’t read to. So if you’re sharing some close bonding time with your little one in the carrier, make the most of it with a story. 

As you practice speech and language with your child, have fun with it. This shouldn’t feel like a chore or an educational task. Simply interact with your child! Tell them what you’re seeing and experiencing, and follow their lead. You’ll be able to tell what they like or don’t like, then do more of the activities that hold their interest. Enjoy this time with your little one as you help them build their communication skills!

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