Published July 16, 2013 by
Hearing your baby say those very first words is undeniably exciting. It’s a step you certainly don’t want to miss, but for many parents, it can be a frustratingly long wait. Most babies will spend their first two years learning to talk, and long before they figure out how to say those exciting first words, they’re working hard at learning the rules of communication.
The Early Days
During the first three months of your baby’s life, your child is actually already starting the process of learning to talk. The baby listens to the voices around him or her. When you begin to hear those little coos and gurgles, you’ll know that he or she is trying to imitate the same sounds you’re making. It’s pretty easy to help them at this stage. If you sing or talk to your baby regularly, he or she will begin to learn the patterns in your voice. Keeping the radio and TV sounds to a minimum can help too.
As your baby reaches six months old, he or she is beginning to see how people talk with each other, and the need to imitate dialogue becomes very strong. You can help by asking lots of questions, then waiting for baby to respond to you. Repeat yourself frequently.
A Solid Start
From six to nine months of age, you’ll begin to hear vocalizations that truly sound like words. You may even hear a da-da or two in there. Babies at this stage of the game can also express a measure of emotion in their voices. Throughout each day, talk to your baby and label everything you possibly can. From the door to the puppy to everyone you meet, let your baby expand his or her vocabulary through you.
As your baby begins to approach one, repetitive language skills are in full swing. Your baby knows what you’re saying, even if he or she can’t repeat any of it. If you tell your baby it’s time to eat, for example, he or she may head for the high chair. If you grab their baby blanket, they may know that it's time for a nap. Spend lots of time reading together at this point, and don’t stop labeling.
Most parents think that by one, babies should be talking fluently, but that’s hardly the case. While you may begin to hear one or two words, development here varies quite a bit. Some children just know one or two words while others know dozens. One thing is for certain at this age, though. The vocabulary you’re waiting for is absolutely starting to pick up steam. Even when your child can’t say something directly, he or she has already learned how to communicate the message to you through gestures.
Signs for Concern
If you think your baby isn’t developing his or her language skills well, you may want to consult with your pediatrician. A few causes for concern include: if your baby can’t respond to sounds you make or doesn’t startle, if your baby doesn’t look for you when you speak to him or her, and if your baby seems unable to babble or imitate speech sounds by the age of eight months. Your pediatrician is your first resource if you’re concerned about your child’s speech delays, as identifying potential problems early on can help prevent other potential difficulties in the future.