Storytime and Child Development: Imitating Sounds

Storytime&Child Development


It’s time for imitating sounds!

Just like last week’s post on walking with support, this is another one of those posts that almost seems silly to me because it’s so easy to observe and support in storytime. Anyone who’s done a baby storytime knows how much babies love repeating animal sounds and sounds from things that go, but why is it important to storytime and child development?

At this age, babies are really ramping up the building blocks of language and communication. They’re going from making less intelligible sounds like cooing and gurgling to making intentional ones that get our attention. They’re recognizing that some sounds create a favorable reaction and they can remember what sound to make to cause an adult to, say, pick them up or feed them. They’re also beginning to experiment with the way sentences work. You might hear them raise their voices while babbling like they’re asking a question or you might hear them grunt the sounds when they’re grumpy.

When it comes to storytime, I love to give lots of opportunities for adults and their babies to interact by imitating my sounds. Babies will be especially good at one or two syllable words with strong vowel sounds, which means that animal and things that go books are amazing! Even if the text doesn’t call for it, take some time to point to the pictures and say “What does this [this] say? [speak the sound]. Can you say [sound?]”

It’s also a really great time for practicing the way that sentences sound. Books that ask questions in the text and give answers are outstanding for this. Also, can I just recommend Moo by David LaRochelle 100 times?! It is absolutely perfect for supporting imitation because it’s just a simple sound that all babies can make, but said in lots of different ways. Plus! It’s guaranteed to make your adults chuckle.


When babies are babbling to you or even beginning to say their first words, it’s also really important to use it as an opportunity to model scaffolding in our conversations.

I like to do this during playtime most of all. When babies wander over to me and babble, I like to respond with a short reply. “Yes, the blue ball goes, ‘bounce, bounce.'” It takes some practice, but I always try to think of a word to end my sentence that can stick with them. Babies want to know names for things and they really like to speak the sounds it makes, so I often focus on that. Sometimes a baby or two will really get a kick out of saying their name, too. I often reply with what toys are near or what they are doing.

Baby: Edmund.
Me: Edmund is walking so fast, fast, fast.

Baby: Ava!
Me: Yes, Ava is making a tower!
Ava: To-wer.

I’ve seen parents really pick up on this practice with very little coaching from me and it can help tremendously with speech development. This is a really magical time when you can see first words appearing and my observation has been that adults really start to swell with pride and become even more involved in the learning process after that.


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