Guide to Baby's Speech Developmentby Katlyn Joy | December 14, 2011
A parent's favorite sounds are a baby's first coo, giggle and the all important first words. However, when should baby say what and how well or often? Every child has his own timetable, but there are some guidelines to follow to look for a normal pattern of language development.
Birth to 3 Months
What to Expect: Baby should respond to loud noises but startling. Baby should seem to respond differently to parents' voices than other voices. Cooing and gurgling are typical for this age. Babies should smile or quiet in response to familiar voices. Baby will be able to communicate through different sounding cries for different needs.
How to Help: Even though you can't hold a real conversation with baby yet, talk to baby throughout the day. Narrate the actions around baby and read simple baby books to baby. Use baby's name when speaking to her.
3 to 6 Months
What to Expect: Baby begins to respond to more subtle signals in speech such as recognizing different tones of voice. Baby enjoys and responds to music now and will enjoy toys that reward actions with noises. Babbling is becoming more involved including vowel sounds now in combination with syllables like "Da-da," or "ba-ba-ba." Baby will reward you with some real belly laughs now too. Baby can communicate emotions such as joy and displeasure (especially that one!) through combination of sounds and facial expressions.
How to Help: Sew bells to baby's socks to make a simple and fun toy. Sing to your baby and dance around while listening to music. Make sure you speak to your child in more conversational styles, even pausing for baby's gurgled responses to your questions.
6 to 12 Months
What to Expect: Baby will be combining more complex mixtures of vowels and consonants now and will imitate sounds and to some extent, words. First words such as "Da-da," or "Mama," appear in this time period. Using speech, baby learns how to get your attention often experimenting with sounds and also volume now. Baby's speech will resemble adult language better as baby begins to also imitate the intonations he hears. Baby can understand many more words than she mimics, and may respond to verbal requests such as "Give Mommy the ball," or "Are you thirsty?" with appropriate actions.
How to Help: Incorporate fingerplays into your play moments with baby. Teach baby more language through naming body parts and pointing, or giving cues in your speech such as that coat is red, or that cookie is bigger. Don't worry over baby's using a substitute word for the real one for objects. Many children do this for awhile.
12 Months to 18 Months
What to Expect: By now 12 months most, but not all, children will have a vocabulary of several words. Baby will point to objects in books when you ask her to. When instructed to do a simple one step, or possibly two step, action baby will follow directions. (If he wants to, that is!) Baby will understand the names of many objects, body parts and names of relatives and friends. By 18 months expect your child to have a vocabulary of around 20 words.
How to Help: Provide your toddler with sturdy books that baby will enjoy reading, tossing and chewing. Continue your daily conversations allowing baby to flex his speech muscles by asking him questions. Make baby a word book complete with pictures of items from your home and life, as well as photos of friends and family members. Teach baby simple nursery rhymes and songs.
18 to 24 Months
What to Expect: By 24 months most children have a vocabulary of 50 or more words and will be saying 2 word sentences such as , "I go," or "Daddy home." Baby will identify their body parts when requested to do so. Pronouns, especially the ever popular "Mine!" show up in this age group typically. Baby will also now ask simple questions and will respond to commands without any gestures needed.
How to Help: Play simple games with baby. Take your toddler to the library to check out books and DVDs that interest her. Make sure storytimes are increasingly interactive with you pointing to objects on the pages and asking, "What is this?" Continue talking with baby throughout the day, making sure to make eye contact and truly listening to what your little one has to say.
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