Speech and Language Development

Every child goes through a development phase after being born — physical, mental, emotional, and lingual. However, speech and language play a key role in a child’s development process. Did you know that since birth, a newborn is able to hear different sounds and is well aware of the noise in the environment? Let’s look at the different stages which a child goes through when developing his/her speech and language.

Receptive Language

Before 12 months

At birth, children are responsive to new sounds around them. They cry when they hear something loud, and are woken by the sounds around them. By the time they’re three months old, they are able to recognize a familiar voice and will listen intently to unfamiliar voices. By this time, they learn to respond to comforting voices as well.

Between 4-6 months, the little ones learn to respond to “no”. They can understand the variation in your tone as well and are now attracted to the sounds coming from toys. They also develop an interest in the various sounds around them, like ring of a phone, buzzing of the machines, or the birds chirping.

From the 7th month, till the 12th month, the baby can now understand when he/she is being called, and enjoys playing games which have sound effects like “Peekaboo”. They even recognize the words “mama” or “dada”, and they react to situations, for e.g. “give mama her keys” and they return it.

12 months to 24 months

By this age, children are able to recognize various commands, and are able to understand simple questions like “Who loves mommy”, “where’s the food”. They listen to stories intently, and have a good time listening to you sing poems or nursery rhymes.

24 months to 36 months

Toddlers, by this age, understand quite a few things; differences are easier to understand for them, like knowing what is hot and what is cold. They now understand that a ring of a phone is different from a door bell, and may become excited every time they hear either of them ringing.

Speech and Language Development

Expressive Language

Before 12 months

At birth, a newborn communicates by making sounds and letting others know about how he/she feels. The baby then eventually starts smiling, followed by different sound effects. They develop a cry for every situation. For instance, they have a different cry for when they are hungry, and a different one for when they are in discomfort. By 4–6 months, babies start making gurgling sounds while playing. They do so when they feel happy. They also start talking in their language, babbling basically. With time communication becomes so strong between a parent and a child that the baby can tell if they want something, and the parent can understand it.

By the 7th month, the babbling of the baby changes, and he/she can start  saying words like “mama” or “dada” and other sounds are used to communicate.

12 months to 24 months

With time, the speech of the child becomes more understandable. More clarity can be observed in their voice.

24 to 36 months

By this age, the toddler is talking non-stop, learning new words every day. They tend to utter a few words, which are normally understood by family members only.

Difference between Speech and Language

Before moving forward, you need to understand the main difference between language and speech. Speech is basically a verbal expression of language, with the sounds associated to it. Language on the other hand, is the communication of coherent thoughts and ideas through writing, or in a baby’s life, gestures. However, deep down both have the same meaning to it; to have direct communication with the other being.

Speech and Language Therapy

By the age of two, if your toddler is able to say around 50 words a day and you seem to understand half of it, then your child doesn’t seem to have a speech problem. However, if this is not the case, and your child only uses a handful of words he/she knows, that too repeatedly and not clearly, then I’m afraid he/she might have a speech and language problem. This also falls under the late-talking category. It is best to seek medical or professional help immediately.

A speech disorder is when the child has a problem with pronouncing certain words and sounds. A language disorder, on the other hand, is the problem of understanding or putting words together when communicating ideas.

Speech therapy has a basic solution: to visit a doctor and discuss the problems. The most common speech problem is that of having a lisp or stammering. For a lisp, a therapist shall help the child by making him produce the ‘S’ and ‘Z’ sound. The child is first asked to listen to the sounds and then pronounce them accordingly.

Hoarseness in a child’s voice is also a sign of speech problem. It may be caused due to some infection in the upper respiratory tract.

Along with professional help, as a parent you should also help and encourage your child. Communicate well with your little ones. Boost their confidence, and most of all; make sure you maintain an eye contact with them while talking. By doing so, it shows that you are interested in what they have to say. This makes communication a bit easier for them then.

Keep the conversation alive. Talk about all that can be observed in your surroundings. Ask various questions, which can be answered with ease. Along with this, read books with them. Reading together helps in building a better vocabulary and comprehension for them.

When your child makes a mistake, be calm and patient about it. Be subtle, and give them time to rectify their mistake and fix it. Don’t start scolding them. Your interest and patience shall show how you are eager to develop communication skills with him/her.

This shall be of immense help in developing proper language and speech skills, which will be helpful in the future.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.


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