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How 'Raspberries' Help Baby Develop

Sticking your tongue out and making noise at your kid can just seem like silly fun. But it lays the groundwork for social and motor skills and more.

The first time it happens, you don't expect it. Your baby looks at you, sticks out her tongue and makes a gentle razzing sound. It's almost impossible not to smile and make a raspberry back at her.

What starts as a fun and silly game between parent and baby actually sets the foundation for language, social skills and fine motor skills, such as eating and drinking from a cup. So pucker up those lips and help your baby begin to experience a whole new world.

Wondrous workout

Most babies start blowing raspberries and bubbles between 6 and 8 months of age. After a few tries, they usually catch on quickly, particularly if you encourage them. And you should blow back; besides being darling, those raspberries teach a variety of important skills.

"Razzies really teach babies how to regulate their voice, how to turn it on and off, change the volume and the pitch. It shows them how to navigate the diaphragm, mouth, lips and tongue," explains Tara Kehoe, a speech and language pathologist at Easter Seals.

All that noise gives the jaw a great workout by exercising the muscles needed to move lips independently of the jaw and tongue. That's a crucial skill for when they start using a spoon and eating chunkier foods.

Speech and language pathologist Mary Barry explains, "Lip raspberries are just lip and no tongue. They help develop lip tension, so that when babies start drinking and eating they will have the appropriate tension to provide a seal for skills such as cup drinking."

Think of it as a workout for lips.

Bonding time, too

But what parents notice most about the raspberry stage is that it's just plain fun. Babies laugh and giggle in response to their parents lip-blowing and then they do it back. It's the early foundation for the back-and-forth rhythm of a conversation.

Frequently, this is when older siblings begin to realize that the baby is capable of interaction. "My 6-year old loved when my youngest was at this stage. She just couldn't get enough of it. They just blew razzies back and forth to each other," says Sara McNichols of Clinton Township.

Blowing raspberries is almost nature's way of ensuring that you join in. Try to imitate your child and then wait for his reaction. "Use lots of non-verbal communication – eye contact and expression," encourages Barry.

"Show them how enjoyable it is. Show them how to manipulate their environment by making sound; that's really what language is. Just match the sound, wait and go back and forth. Balance and match."

New skills

Once they've mastered the raspberries, be ready for language to start developing.

Early speech usually entails repeated consonants and vowels with no discernable meaning. Much to the delight of mom and dad, the "m," "d" and "a" sounds are frequently the earliest. Hence "mama" and "dada" are often two of the earliest words.

That soon develops into long strings of sounds, like "bababababa" and then eventually combined consonants for nonsense words such as "takomamano."

Talk to your doctor if your baby isn't making any vocalization by 8 months. Some babies may skip the raspberry stage, but they should make some type of sound that plays with their lips and their mouth. If not, it could be an indication of delayed speech development or a hearing issue.

Otherwise, enjoy those raspberries and bubbles. And remember to play other games of cause and effect with your baby and get them to communicate back to you.

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