Speech Development Usually Occurs by the Age of Two
The clear majority of babies growing in healthy and nurturing environments normally begin to speak by the time they have reached two years of age. Babies listen and learn from the people around them. They imitate not only the words you utter, but also the expressions you make and the tone of your voice!
By the time your child reaches their first birthday, they’ll be starting to speak their first words. They’ll also be communicating non-verbally, through body language and gestures like pointing and waving. This developing communication allows them to socialize with you and with other people around them, and to express their emotions. A child’s first words are always the people or items that they meet every day – no wonder parents compete over whether Billy says “Mama” or “Papa” first! By watching and imitating the way you move your mouth to make sounds, children learn to form their first words. Slowly but surely, they learn to perfectly formulate each word.
Let us walk you through the different stages of communication as a baby will go through before the age of one. By keeping these in mind, you should be able to detect if there are any discrepancies from the norm, and so potentially can tell early on if your child has a problem with speech development.
Visual Contact and Facial Expressions
The first smile your baby flashes at you is just a reflex, but by the time they’re 4 weeks old, babies start to truly smile in response to the stimuli around them. By the time, they are 6 months old, babies develop the ability to make visual contact, and use this newfound skill to play with you and to ask for items. At right about that time, they also start using their facial expressions to express themselves. It’s up to you to start interpreting what a certain expression means. A long time before babies start using speech to communicate, they start contacting us using different methods. It’s the parents’ job to be alert to their children’s first attempts at communication.
9-month-old babies will start using actual gestures to express themselves. They’ll point at objects and wave at you. You can help along this part of the process by making those gestures right back at your kid.
Around the age of 6 months, babies begin to produce sounds – lots of them. This is when they start to babble. And when they’re approximately 10 months old, they start repeating syllables. This babbling is a pre-requisite for children to acquire words. A child who has not started babbling by the time they are 12 months old needs to be referred to a speech pathologist.
Babies begin to understand speech from a very early age, and are helped along in this process through facial expressions, gestures and the tone and pitch of your voice. You can facilitate your baby’s understanding of language by using fewer words, constant repetition, speaking slowly, and varied facial expressions and voice tones.
The norm for first words lies between 8 and 15 months – 12 months is the average. If a baby has not said their first words after 15 months, it is time to refer them to a practitioner. By 18 months, your child should start to be able to use at least 20 words, and should be learning to put two words together.
Children play a lot, and this is part of the process of socializing and talking. Play is a healthy sign that your child is learning to develop communication skills. You can help along the process by playing with them and watching for what types of games interest them the most. Parents need to look at their babies when they speak to them, and enthusiastically respond to their gestures and giggles. Additionally, you should imitate the sounds your baby is making back to them, and don’t forget to smile a lot and use repetition! Talk frequently with your baby and play with them as much as possible.
What You Should Be Doing: Tips and Tricks
The basic idea here is that you enable your children to be exposed to language all day long. By making sure that they have the best possible environment to learn speech, you will be better able to tell whether something is wrong. Constantly describe your activities; sing about what you are eating or where you are going. When feeding them, for example, say spoon so they learn to recognize that object. Repeat the word over and over, and when they do learn to identify the object, combine your words with actions so your child understands what the action means. When your child says “spoon” say “eat with spoon”, so they understand the action they are performing. Make one word the key or highlighted word. If you’re playing ball with your child, keep focusing on the highlighted word “ball”.
Speak to your child in your mother tongue first if you speak two languages. This is because you likely have more familiarity with that language and so can help the child understand you faster.
And make sure you give your child plenty of opportunities to talk and express themselves. When you ask them a question, make sure they gave enough time to think about it and formulate an answer. Gove the, choices – do you want the red socks or the pink? Give them enough time to answer using wither gestures or words. Avoid repeating the question before 10 seconds have passed – the child has probably heard you already and is still using that time to think.
The tricks should help your child meet the language and speech milestones appropriate for their age. It is important that they do meet these milestones so their entire language development process happens at the right time. Be alert and identify potential delays as quickly as possible so you can give your child the best opportunity to learn the necessary communication skills they need.