This post was originally published by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

One of the most remarkable things I’ve discovered while raising my children is the innate ability kids have for communication.  In the very early stages of life it is very simple: “cry if I’m hungry…cry if I’m tired…cry if I need a diaper change…cry…just to cry”.  As they grow and develop they still cry, but they also learn to point.  They learn to express emotion with their face.  They cry different cries based on what they need…and they learn how to whine.  Cooing, babbling and baby talk all come in their turn and then eventually they start forming words that we can understand.  Before we know it they’re saying full sentences and yelling out words that we had no idea they knew!

As a dad, something I’ve focused on is having conversations with my kids, even from an early age when all they do is stare up at you and can do nothing but smile back in response.  Often this “conversation” would be baby talk and babbling and cooing back to them after they’ve made their adorable little noises, but I frequently tried to have conversations and talk with them as though I were talking to an older child or an adult.  I wanted my children to hear lots and lots of words from an early age in the hopes that they would listen and start trying to talk back.  I also wanted to imprint on them that I wanted to talk with them.  I wanted to hear what they had to say.  Their voice was important to me and I wanted them to know that they could always come and talk to me and share what was on their mind.

I definitely feel like this strategy has been successful.  Sometimes I wonder if my son will ever stop talking!  My daughter continues to surprise me by adding more words to her vocabulary and finding other ways of communicating when she wants or needs something.  It is so enjoyable hearing their little voices and quirky personalities come out through their words. I continue to be amazed that their ability to express themselves and communicate is limited only by my expectations and the opportunities I give them.  The more I speak with them…the more they speak back and the more vocabulary and confidence they develop.  Now if you’ll excuse me…I need to go have a conversation with my 10 month old about her crawling explorations today.

This is fatherhood…