Understanding the Milestone
As your baby grows and develops speech and language skills, babbles will slowly turn into words and then into sentences. Babies are born to listen. They’ll begin to associate sounds, linking the family dog to a bark, for example. Babies as young as 4 weeks can distinguish between similar syllables like “ma” and “na”. As young as 2 months, they begin to associate certain sounds with certain lip movements.
Most babies begin communicating with words between 9 & 14 months. And although the average child can say up to three words at 12 months of age, they can understand about 50 words. And that number is growing every day.
You can help your baby with his growing vocabulary by doing plenty of talking. And that is how babies learn. When you say a word to your baby, he tries to repeat the word and increase the list of words in their vocabulary. For example, you say “spaghetti” and he says “geddy.” Describing activities as you move throughout your day can help baby begin to associate words with the appropriate object or action. Additionally, reading and singing are great ways to introduce your child to new words and sounds.
What & When to Expect the Milestone?
Your little one is just beginning to communicate with you beyond crying by 12 months of age. Your toddler still has a limited vocabulary at this point. Even though your little one isn’t saying many words, he is babbling a lot and attempting to imitate the sounds heard from others around him. Parents should be hearing vowel and consonant babbling by 8 or 9 months which continues as baby starts to form words around 12 months.
Pediatricians are mostly concerned with your child’s receptive language right now. Does he recognize your voice? Does he turn his head toward different sounds? Even at this age, he can communicate with intent and get what he wants by pointing or looking toward an object. He should also be able to follow your eyes and look where you’re looking. These responsive actions are more important than how many words your child can say.
Activities & Stimulation
You can help your baby with his growing vocabulary by doing plenty of talking. More ways to encourage baby talks are:
Give everything a name. For example, at bath time, you can say, ‘This is the shampoo’, as you reach for it. Your baby will build his vocabulary.
Be silly. Games like ‘peekaboo’ reinforce listening, turn talking and imitation which are some of the prerequisites for conversation.
Read together. At first he won’t understand what you’re saying, but you’ll stimulate his senses and build a lifelong love of books.
Sing. Babies naturally love music and singing is a great way to introduce a range of sounds.
Babble back. The play on sounds makes language fun. Before you babble on, pause to let him ‘talk’ so he gets a feel for the rhythm of real conversation.
What Not To Worry about?
Although, ‘trying to repeat words you say’ is a general phenomenon seen in babies and perceived as milestone in 12 months of a baby’s development. It completely depends on the child and is normal even when they reach the milestone a little late.
When to Talk to a Professional?
About one in four children is a late talker. Signs that your child may be delayed include:
He’s still speaking in single syllables or drops final consonants.
He doesn’t use two-word sentences or ask questions.
He melts down frequently because you don’t understand him.
The best time to get professional help is when your child is around 2 ½ years of age, the age when late bloomers usually catch up.