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Listen and talk to your child all the time

Global RCEL Addendum - Africa (Eng) (USAID Advancing Nutrition | 2023)
Listen and talk to your child all the time

Key Messages

  • Your child uses eye contact, cooing, facial expressions, and movement to tell you what she needs and wants from the day she is born. Follow her signals to understand her needs.
  • Babies begin to understand many words before they can speak. Talk and sing to your child often so that he can hear words. He will learn to talk by listening to you talk.
  • Have a conversation with sounds, words, and gestures. When your child communicates with you using sounds or movements, respond to him and he will respond back. You are each taking turns in the conversation.
  • You can help your child learn new words by expanding on her language. If she says one word, such as “papa,” build her language by adding more words: “Papa loves you!”


Birth up to 6 months:

  • During or after breastfeeding, talk and sing to your baby. She is listening and will find comfort in your voice.
  • Imitate your baby’s sounds and gestures. He is communicating with you with his sounds and movements. When he coos, respond to him. Your baby needs to hear you talk.

6 up to 9 months:

  • Your baby can start to recognize common words. When you see your child is no longer hungry, ask her, “All done?” If she shows you that she is still hungry, say, “More?”
  • Respond to your baby’s sounds and interests. Call your baby’s name and notice his response.

9 up to 12 months:

  • Your baby will start to enjoy different soft foods now, such as soft fruits or cooked vegetables, and needs diverse, colorful foods to meet her nutritional needs. Use words to describe the food, and slowly she will understand new words. Name the different foods and parts of her body that she is using to eat, like her fingers and mouth.
    • Talk to your baby as you prepare his meal. Describe what is happening as you interact with him, such as saying, “Here is your bowl” or “Dad cooked you potatoes.” Ask him questions, “Do you want eggs?” Give him time to respond with gestures such as pointing or sounds before you provide a verbal answer.

12 up to 24 months:

  • As you feed your child, describe the colors and textures of her food. Encourage her to speak by asking her the name or the color of the food she is eating. Point and tell her the names of the foods after she has had a chance to try and answer you!
  • Sing with your child. Start a song and let him sing parts that he knows. Over time, he can sing more and more himself as he learns more words and you can practice taking turns.
  • Children learn to love stories when they read together with their parents every day. Ask her to point to different people and animals in a book, magazine, or poster. Praise her for finding the animals and objects!


  • Summarize the session by asking the caregiver(s) to demonstrate or explain what they will go home and do with their child. Ask if the caregiver(s) see any barriers and problem-solve together how to overcome those barriers.
  • If appropriate, agree on the next meeting date.