Your baby is beautifully unique and will develop their language skills at their own pace. So don’t compare your little one with other kids at playgroup or at the park. The ability to talk will come gradually and can vary widely. Before they can even say their first words they’ll be picking up on your tone and body language. Your child’s brain is like a little sponge and they’ll learn by copying you and others around you. So to help develop their speech try talking to them as much as possible.
A timeline to know what to expect
When your baby is 3 to 4 months old, they’ll start to cry less and maybe gurgle some sounds like baba or yaya.
They’ll begin experimenting with the pitch of their voice at 4 to 5 months, laughing in response to funny faces or noises, and using sounds to get your attention. If your little one is not producing any vocal noises or there’s no eye contact, it’s worth having a chat with a healthcare professional at this stage.
At 7 to 12 months old you’ll notice they start to copy you with a wide range of babble. You could have pretend conversations with them, and they may understand certain objects they’re familiar with, such as toys and clothes.
By 12 months old they may have said their first words (or they may not, it depends on your baby). Either way it’s best not to expect too much from your little one because they won’t be able to pronounce their first words very clearly. Children aren’t actually meant to be completely intelligible until they are 4 years old!
At 15 months old they’ll begin to add hand gestures to what they’re saying, they might even be able to say up to 6 words.
Here are some tips to help your child’s speech:
- Talk to them as much as you can throughout the day, point out simple things, take a walk and show them new objects and colors. This will also teach them about the environment they live in.
- Read books with them and talk them through picture books, pointing out familiar things.
- Talk to them while you play together. Building blocks are a good toy to use as they encourage a range of language like nouns (blue), adjectives (high), and verbs (build).
- Singing nursery rhymes makes learning new words fun for them.
- Follow up on the words they say, for example if they say ‘duck’, say to them ‘yes, a yellow duck’.
- Praise them when they say something, don’t focus on the mistakes.
- They learn by watching your lips too so get down to their level when talking to them.
- By offering them a choice like blue or yellow, it’ll encourage them to use their words.
- Take away distractions when you’re talking to them, turn off the TV and focus your attention on their little conversations.
- By giving your child lots of encouragement you’ll be giving them the confidence to say new words and join in on conversations.