When Should My Baby Start Talking?

The first year with your new baby is full of exciting milestones that you can’t wait to hear (or see) firsthand. On average, you can expect your baby to start talking anywhere from 10-14 months. Babbling begins around the 6-month mark, and your baby starts to understand simple words.

Around a year is when most babies start to say basic words—and know what they’re saying. However, your baby is unique, and these milestones don’t happen on a statistic-based schedule. So, when should your baby start talking?

Related: When Can My Baby Have Water?

What Are the Major Language Milestones?

  • Their first word: Most babies will speak their first word around 10-14 months of age. If they haven’t spoken yet—it’s coming soon.

  • Gestures: Around the same time, babies will start to use gestures and a few words to get their point across to you.

    • Directions: By 12-15 months, your baby will start to understand (and hopefully follow!) simple sentences and directions.

  • Familiar objects: Between 12 and 18 months, your baby will start naming familiar objects.

  • Listening: During the same period, your baby will begin to enjoy listening to songs, rhymes, and books.

  • A larger vocabulary: By the 18-month mark, most children will know about ten words. During this time, many children will begin learning words at a rapid pace. And by 24-months, their vocabulary will be much larger.

  • Their name: By age two, your child will likely begin referring to themselves by their name.

  • Sentences: Also by age two, your child should start putting words together to form sentences. They may not be complete sentences, but they’ll string words together that start to make sense.
  • When Should I Get Worried?

    No baby is the same. Even if your baby is progressing more slowly, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to worry. While it is unusual for children to not speak at all by the 18-month mark, it’s not always a cause for concern.

    Look for signs of language readiness, like:

    • Pointing to things they want or pictures in a book—this behavior is closely related to the beginning of speech.

    • If they seem to understand what others say, they’re well on their way to speech.

    • Gestures, facial expressions, and grunts are also early ways for babies and children to communicate nonverbally. 

    If your baby shows signs of readiness, they’ll likely start speaking soon. If not, you might want to look into a speech and hearing assessment—most schools offer free screenings.

    What’s the Difference Between Speech and Language?

    Dr. Cindy Gellner, who runs the Healthy Kids Zone Podcast, states that babies speak on their own timetables. For example, one baby might grasp language early, but they take longer to develop a simple vocabulary. On the other hand, a baby might learn words, but they haven’t quite grasped the language yet.

    So, what’s the difference between speech and language?

    There is a crucial distinction—speech refers to the verbal expression of a language, and languages refers to expressing and receiving information in a meaningful way.

    So, if your baby is progressing in one area more than the other, you probably don’t need to worry yet. If your child can’t produce words or phrases by age two, it might be time for a pediatric evaluation.

    Related: When Will My Baby’s Hair Grow?

    How Can I Help My Baby Learn to Talk?

     A baby chewing on his shirt

    There are some ways you can help your baby learn to talk—try these tips!

    Be Talkative

    Babies learn by listening to you, so talk away and watch their speech and language skills bloom! You can narrate your actions throughout the day to tell your baby what everything is, what you’re doing, and why. The more words that they hear, the more that they’ll understand. Tell your baby about your day, point out interesting things, and keep talking!

    Use Proper Words

    Once your baby learns their first word and starts communicating with it, it’s helpful to respond to them in full sentences. If your child still uses “baby talk,” you should still use proper words. While they might not use correct words or speak in full sentences, you create a learning opportunity when you respond properly. And while we all naturally speak with a louder tone and high pitch when talking with babies, it’s crucial to use real words with your child—not “baby talk.”

    Sing Songs and Lullabies

    You can sing nursery rhymes and lullabies to your baby—not only is it fun, but it also benefits language development! Your baby will love it (even if you think your singing is terrible!). You’ll also likely find your baby trying to sing along with you after a while.

    Read Books Aloud

    Reading is a perfect way for your child to build their vocabulary and learn language skills. You can start as soon as they’re born! While your newborn won’t understand your speech, they will feel comforted by your voice. And as they get older, they’ll start to understand the stories, adding to their vocabulary as they listen.

    Mimic Babbling

    When your baby babbles, babble back! By repeating their sounds and rhythm, your baby will love the attention and playfulness. Babbling also gives you an opportunity to introduce new sounds to your baby, like humming and blowing raspberries.

    What to Avoid When Teaching Your Baby to Talk

    Now, we have three tips for you regarding what to avoid when working on your baby’s language development:

  • Background noise: Babies get distracted easily. Turn off the radio, TV, etc., and allow your baby to focus on the words you say.

  • Screen time: Many experts believe that TV isn’t a great activity for children under two. And some research shows that it can have a detrimental effect on your baby’s language and speech development.

  • Overcorrecting: Your baby will make many mistakes as they learn new words. They might call all other children “boy” or all birds “dodos.” Over time, however, they’ll learn these distinctions by talking and listening to others. For now, don’t correct your baby too often as it can discourage them from speaking.

  •  Two children talking to each other

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    Related: Where Should My Newborn Sleep?

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