In another article, we talked about some all the milestones that a baby reaches in the first few years of their life. One of those very significant milestones is when your baby starts talking. Even though in one way or another, your child has been communicating with you from the moment they were born — if not before — your anxious for the moment when they actually speak their first words to you.
While most children speak their first words somewhere between 11 and 14 months of age, it will take a long time for them to develop enough of a vocabulary to have any sort of conversation with you. Despite that however, that doesn’t lessen your excitement when you hear the first time they call you mama or dada.
Shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that girls develop their language skills are the boys do. At around 16 months of age girls typically have a vocabulary of about 50 words, while boys only have a vocabulary of about 30 words. In terms of language development, at this stage at least, it’s very common boys to be lagging about two months behind girls.
Within a few short months, usually by the time they are two years of age, they should have a repertoire of about 200 words, but may not use all of them regularly. They should also have learned how to string together a short, two or three word sentences by this time as well. It won’t be until their third birthday that they are able to think and speak in more complicated sentences, and be able to converse with you more sensibly.
How Do Babies Learn To Talk?
There are quite a few steps that your baby has to go through before they are able to verbally communicate effectively. First of all, their brain has to be able to recognize the name that is attached to specific objects. Then the lips and the tongue have to become coordinated enough to be able to form the shapes that create the sounds that create the words. Since it takes a while for babies to develop the control necessary, and some children naturally learn faster than others, you’ll find that some children will be able to say their first words well before they are one year of age, while for others it will be much later.
Within the first few months of age, babies will be experimenting with noises and making simple, single syllable sounds. At about three months of age, they should be repeating sounds into two syllable words like dada or gaga, or any other repeated syllable, and this is just another step in their experimentation with vocabulary. It’s not till they are about nine months of age when things become a little bit more complex. It’s doubtful that they will have learned any actual words by this time, but they should have the rhythm and cadence of normal speech patterns. Very soon, they should learn their first word, and from there you’ll find a quick acceleration in their vocabulary.
Can You Help Your Baby Learn to Talk?
Absolutely! Every time you say a word to your child, you’re helping them on the road to speech. It’s even believed that a child’s understanding of language begins before birth, in the womb. Your baby is paying attention when you’re speaking to it, and since their brains are like little sponges, they are absorbing more than you know.
There’s a variety of things that you can do to aid in your child’s ability to verbally communicate with you. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Early Communication — Before your child starts talking, they communicate via body language. Make sure you acknowledge and respond to that body language, and this will encourage them to improve on their abilities to communicate with you. They want you to understand them, and will continue to learn how to communicate with you.
- Talk And Talk Often— You are the one teaching your baby a new language. The more they hear it, the quicker they will learn. So talk to them often throughout the day, perhaps even narrating whatever simple chores you’re carrying out. Point things out to them, naming things as you do so. Don’t talk baby talk, use the words they’re going to use the rest of their life.
- Read to Them — This is a great way to expand upon your baby’s vocabulary, and you should start at birth. No one expects them to understand the words at that time, but they will progressively begin to understand and add the words that you read to them to their vocabulary.
- Sing to Them — Don’t worry about your singing voice, that’s irrelevant to your baby. But often times they will want to repeat what you’re singing, and this is just another means to helping them build their vocabulary.
- Listen to Them — Pay attention when your baby is trying to communicate with you. If you just ignore them, where is the motivation for them to want to learn to communicate better with you?
Things to Avoid
There are a few things that you should avoid while your child is learning to talk. Babies are easily distracted, so limited some of the background noise when you’re trying to talk to them. Let them be able to focus on your words. And while this is something of a controversial subject, experts say that children under two years of age should not watch TV at all, as this has proven to be detrimental to their developing language skills. One other thing to watch out for is over correcting them. Remember, they’re just learning the language, so there’s bound to be some mistakes. They will figure things out over time, typically just by listening to older children and adults around them. But if you constantly correct them, you may discourage them to the point where it impacts their desire to learn.