Your baby’s first experiences with language are auditory, as they take in the sounds of your voice and the environment around them. In this article, we’ll explore how babies’ verbal skills develop month by month and how infants begin to acquire language.
You have many concerns and questions about your child’s speech development. How old are babies when they start to communicate? After what point in time will they be able to carry on talks with you? Read on to find out more about these pivotal moments by following our narrated timeline.
From Birth to 6 Months
Infants are born with a keen ear for sound. Kids eventually come to connect particular noises, like the family dog’s barking, with their origins. Baby’s first form of communication will be weeping, but soon they’ll be utilizing their tongue, lips, and palate to generate gurgles, and long vowel sounds like “oo,” “aa,” and “ee”—precursors to those wonderful first words.
Infants as early as four weeks old can tell the difference between “ma” and “na,” two syllables that sound quite similar to adults. Around about 2 months, infants learn that various lip motions correspond to particular sounds.
Between 4 and 6 months, you’ll notice that your baby’s sighs have given way to chattering. The sounds of the lips producing the consonants m, w, p, and b will be audible. Your infant will learn to use cue words like their name or “mommy” and “daddy” to understand where a sentence begins and ends.
Around 4.5 months, your baby may recognize their own name, but only in the context of a greeting or an exit. They probably won’t figure out that their name is meant to allude to them for at least another six months.
As time goes on, your baby’s babble will become more wordlike. They will purposefully drone on about the same word ( “gaga”) over and over again. When they are around nine months old, they will begin to grasp that you can communicate using motions like pointing and moaning. By the time they’re ten months old, they’ll have developed sufficient control to blend sounds and create their own sentences.
So, at what age do most infants utter their first word? Around a year, say the pros. Many children’s first words are familiar expressions of affection, such as “mama” or “dada,” or they may be more specific, such as “doggy” or “cat” or “meal” (“cookie,” “juice,” or “milk”).
Words like mom and dad’s names and commonplace nouns like “bottle” and “crib” are starting to register in your baby’s brain, and she may even understand a word or two. Your infant will start to pay greater attention to intonation, picking up on the fact that a stern tone usually signifies “No!” or “Stop!”
Your infant will try to repeat that first word as soon as they can. Initially, vocabulary increases gradually, at the rate of a few words per month. Initially, children just use nouns, but they eventually learn to use verbs and adjectives as well. Kids will try out one-word requests, such as “Cookie?” for “May I have a cookie?” and take great pleasure in the response, “No!”
Your toddler should be able to distinguish between “The dog bit the man” and “The man bit the dog,” which demonstrates an understanding of the basic rudiments of grammar. They should understand far more words than they can speak and have little trouble following basic one-step orders (such as “Grab the ball”).
By the age of 19 or 20, toddlers have a “language explosion,”; however, the reason for this is unclear. After making little headway for a few weeks, they suddenly start picking up new vocabulary at a furious clip, sometimes acquiring as many as nine new words in a single day.
There’s usually an exhaustive “Why?” period that follows this verbal avalanche. Your child will be able to put together phrases of two or even four words by the end of the second year. Children of this age are also prone to endearing blunders as they over- and “under-extend” their understanding of various topics. If your youngster learns that the round item is called a “ball,” they might conclude that all round things must be balls, in which case he or she might point to the full moon and exclaim, “Ball!”
What your young child can understand: At some point, your toddler will grasp the concept of verbs. They will study you intently because they know you have the secret to understanding their language.
Your child is honing their skills and knowledge at the moment. In response to “Why?” they will ask, “When?” “What?” “Where?” Learn that “no” can indicate “not,” “don’t,” or “it’s all gone,” and you’ll be well on your way to adding complex notions. They may start using more figurative language, such as “think” and “know,” toward the end of the year. Sounds like ph, th, and r can be mastered by your child as they learn to control the tip of their tongue while speaking.
In terms of language development, your child will start to pick up on tenses, plurals, and suffixes like “ing” and “ly.” Your toddler will likely begin using two-word commands like “Drink milk” and “Play ball” in the near future.
Ways in which you can lend a hand: Playing rhyming games might improve a child’s aural discrimination skills. Repeat the right version of the statement back to your child if he or she makes a mistake instead of calling attention to it. If they say, “I went playground,” for instance. In response, you could comment, “So, you visited the playground, huh? Great!”
Things to keep an eye on: children’s thinking may exceed their spoken expression. Talk to your kid’s pediatrician if issues like stuttering or lisping have you worried.
You can expect your three-year-old to use a few words to express a whole notion at this point, such as “Mommy no socks,” meaning “Mommy isn’t wearing any socks today.” Later in the year, they’ll be able to string together many ideas into a story of roughly 300 words when they talk.
Your child should be able to follow a tale and take away some key takeaways from it. They’ll start to appreciate gobbledygook as well.
Ways in which you can lend a hand: When reading to your youngster, choose books with more of a storyline. Young people are more reliant on adult assistance in conversation. Make up stories based on the names on their preschool class roster. Mary, did you attend class today? Make it more comedic by asking, “Was she wearing that hat with the fruit on it again?”
Your child should be able to hold lengthy discussions with adults, use descriptive adjectives, make knock-knock jokes, and ask questions with the right tone by this point. They’ll have a 2,500-word expressive vocabulary before they are 6.
About 14,000 words are inside your toddler’s vocabulary. They’ll be able to say “thank you,” express gratitude, use words to get the attention of others, as well as convey more complex emotions like fear and hope.
Helpful steps include not pointing out or commenting on any articulation or speech errors. Instead, fix your child’s pronunciation or word choice and then repeat what they said to them. Recognize their hard work by lavishing praise upon them.
Something to keep an eye out for: logging too many hours in front of the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests maximum daily screen time of two hours of high-quality television for children aged two and up. To properly acquire a language, children require both input and output. There is a lack of engagement between the youngster and the content on TV and in video games because of the lack of interactivity.
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