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?
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What Are the Major Language Milestones?
- Directions: By 12-15 months, your baby will start to understand (and hopefully follow!) simple sentences and directions.
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.
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How Can I Help My Baby Learn to Talk?
There are some ways you can help your baby learn to talk—try these tips!
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.
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:
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