What motivates your baby to pronounce their first word?
Language development milestones depend on your baby’s genetic abilities and the environment in which they are exposed to.
The main stages of language development in your baby
Barely out of the womb andyour baby may already have a very loud voice, as anyone would agree that hears them cry. Your baby’s first sounds are shared by babies worldwide – vowels a e i o u. Your baby has already begun using the mother tongue. This is why it is important to speak clearly to your baby from birth.
From 3 months your baby discovers the pleasure of sounds and babbling. This is natural as their brain needs to organise the areas controlling verbal comprehension and those controlling language. Sounds therefore often come with baby’s first mimics.
Your baby starts to communicate with a cry of joy and a big smile, a tentative ‘neh’ sound and unreadable expression, contented guttural noises after a bottle and fidgeting when something needs to change. No need to worry, you will gradually learn to decipher your baby’s body language, babbling and cries.
From 6 to 8 months oldyour baby understands something that will change their life – when they make sounds, their parents respond. Never mind if the full meaning is a little vague – your baby becomes a professional babbler. The main thing is they understand the principle of interaction. Identifying words, and their meaning falls gradually into place in your baby’s developing brain.
At about 12 months old your baby begins to express their ideas and is well on their way to a deeper form of communicating. It is at this age that your baby says “mumma” and “dadda” for the first time. To inspire your baby, speak to them from the outset while experiencing different situations and coming in contact with different objects. Your baby remembers everything and their vocabulary repertoire will eventually explode.
Help build your baby’s language skills
Don’t expect to hear any real words from your baby until after ten months old. Most baby talk will be one-syllable sounds such as “moo,” “maa,” and “baa.” There are a few things you can do to help your baby develop language skills:
- Talk about what’s going on. If you’re putting your baby’s socks on them, talk about that. If you’re holding up a rattle, chat about the rattle. Then shake the rattle and talk about the noise;
- Use short sentences and simple words. At first your baby can only process simple information. Much like if you were to learn a new foreign language – small words and simple tasks are a good starting point;
- Use nouns consistently to identify things. For instance, ask, “Where is your book?” rather than, “Where is it?” Refer to your baby by name. They’re still too young to grasp the concept of pronouns like “you,” “me,” “yours,” and so on. Instead say, “Jennifer did a good job”;
- Talk about objects your baby can see rather than things they have to recall. Seeing the object and hearing the word at the same time will help your baby make a stronger connection;
- Faces and people will be especially intriguing at this time in your baby’s life. Picture books can be great conversation starters;
- Talk in a happy-sounding voice. That’s pretty easy actually, you may notice many adults almost automatically adopt a sing-song voice whenever they are face-to-face with a baby or toddler;
- Emphasise happy facial expressions and gestures as you speak. You may feel silly, but this will help your baby understand you better. This way your baby will begin to identify talking as something pleasant.
Read more about baby development in our Baby Development brochure.
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