What are Verbal Routines and How Do They Build Language Skills?



Verbal routines are all about inviting your baby into your ordinary life and surrounding them with words. Verbal routines require a crucial mindset shift to view all parts of your baby’s life as a learning experience. They also require you to slow down so your baby doesn’t miss out on learning.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist and mama, I use lot of verbal routines with my infant son – when he wakes up, before he eats, while I am doing laundry, dishes, when we go on stroller walks, transitions, car rides, grocery trips, and more.

How do we learn to talk?

  • Repetition is how we all learn words.
  • Repetition is how we all learn words.
  • Repetition is how we all learn words.
  • Repetition is how we all learn words.
  • Repetition is how we all learn words.

How do we learn to talk?

That’s right….REPETITION.

What are verbal routines?

Verbal routines consist of words that are repeated at a predictable time during an activity. A verbal routine happens any time you say the same words, in the same way, for the same things, every time a specific activity occurs. Think “ready, set, GO!” “Oooone, twoooo, THREE!”

Research shows that babies benefit from hearing their parents repeat words. A study proved that babies who had parents constantly repeating words to them at 7 months had more verbal language at 2 years of age when compared to their peers. 

⁠Remember: The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. They day they first hear a word is not the day they say the word out loud. 

Repetition is key!

So even if you feel like a broken record, it will pay off for your child. Keep on repeating and using the verbal routines with your baby. Repetition feels good to our brain. It is comforting. You know how you can listen to your favorite song over and over and over? The more you memorize the lyrics, the more fun it is to roll the windows down, blast the music, and sing along. There is a joy to knowing all the words to a song. Babies experience those feelings of comfort, joy, and connection with you when you use verbal routines and they know what to expect.

Your baby is brand new to the world…literally everything is new to him or her. Wearing a diaper is new, the carseat is new, the texture of their bassinet is new, the swaddle is new, watching the light streaming in the window is new, trees are new, the breeze is new, hearing the dishwasher run is new, reading books is new, every song is new, the changing temperatures, weather, and seasons are new, your facial expressions are all new, every day is new.

So when you repeat verbal routines, you are giving your baby consistent anchor points in life. Predictability is deeply comforting. The consistency and repetition of words is a gift because it helps your baby anticipate what comes next. That is why we say things like, “Ready? Set. GO!!!” That is an example of a simple verbal routine that allows our child to pay attention and anticipate that something is going to happen.

A quick mindset shift that will help:

I get it, you want to get past the diaper change as quickly as possible to get on with the day and play or read a book or go outside. The temptation to rush through caretaking tasks is understandable…BUT, when I shifted my mindset from “getting through the diaper change as fast as possible” to “slowing down and making diaper change time an activity in itself” I noticed that it is a HUGE opportunity for Leo and I to connect and for us to build a fun routine out of it. Moments that most of us tend to rush through and distract our baby are PRIME opportunities to slow down and connect with our child verbally.

Would you like some examples of easy, effective verbal routines you can implement immediately?

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