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Start a Conversation with a One-Year-Old


Babies understand what we say to them long before they can say a single word. We all have trouble starting conversations with a 1-year-old, but if we start by naming what we see that child doing, we have begun. How do we know if a baby understands what we say to him? Children begin to talk by using their bodies: their eyes, their bounce, their hands. And every child’s first word is a cry.

Carter, who just barely had learned to walk, loved to push a toy stroller around. When his mom said, “Carter, you push the stroller so nicely.” he turned around to look her in the eye. Then after she said, “Where is the baby doll who sits in the stroller?” he pushed the stroller out of the kitchen into his bedroom and started screaming. When his mom arrived, he was screaming and pointing at the baby doll which was high up on a shelf. She took the doll down and put it in Carter’s stroller. Both Carter and his mom communicated. Carter used his eyes, his feet, his hands, and his yell to talk. His mom used say-what-you-see.

This Summer twelve parent-child conversation starters in The Gift of Words will have digital support on websites like and and These sites have videos of other parents using say-what-you-see techniques to build vocabulary when their children are playing. The book and websites share ways to tie classroom curriculum to what parents are doing at home.


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