WHEN DO BABIES START TALKING?

Dear MECA Therapies,

When will my baby begin to talk? I’m at my wits end, repeating “Mama” and “Dada” and never receiving a response. I need to know: is a lack of baby talk normal?

-Desperate in Deming

 

Greetings Friend!

If you have questions about your baby’s developmental stages, you’ve come to the right place.

Early childhood development is a bit different for everyone, but there are some widely accepted infant developmental milestones you can refer to. We have also provided you with some toddler developmental milestones to help you gain a better understanding of what your child is going through.

WHEN DO BABIES START TALKING?

A Baby Developmental Milestones Chart

In the Womb

Language development begins in the mother’s womb. Five months into your pregnancy, your baby begins learning speech and language by recognizing both the sound of your voice and the beat of your heart. It’s a good idea to read aloud to your growing baby, or purchase a book on tape and listen to it out loud. Studies have shown that reading to your baby before it is born is a great way to create the foundation for reading skills later on.

Birth to 3 Months: Crying and Cooing

Baby’s first cry is its initiation into the world of direct communication. An infant’s cry may vary in tone, pitch, and urgency to indicate different needs. Baby development happens quickly, and during the first 3 months, many babies begin to play with their voice, which is referred to as “vocal play”. As your baby moves through the stages of development, baby begins to show an increase in babbling and use of different sounds.

3 to 6 Months: Babbling

During this stage of development, babies become more aware of their environment. You will see them begin to track movement with their eyes and turn their heads toward the source of a sound. Most babies begin to increase their babbling and will begin to vocalize basic syllable patterns. Though your baby’s initial attempts at speech will not be easily understood, you will notice that they have learned to use their sounds to gain attention and communicate happiness as well as displeasure.

WHEN TO WORRY:

  • If baby is not cooing, making sounds or laughing out loud
  • If baby is not turning their head toward the source of sounds (this could indicate an ear infection or hearing issues)

 

6 to 12 Months: The Imitation and Single word Stage

At this stage, most babies show a large increase in their communication abilities. Between 6 and 8 months, babies typically begin to understand single nouns and will start to add inflection to their babbling and syllable use. Between the ages of 9-12 months, babies enjoy imitating adult words. By the end of 12 months, they may start saying single words that have real meaning (ie: Dada, Mama, ball, etc.). This can be a very exciting stage, as you will see your child show the first signs of communication with you and other family members. If you haven’t been, now would be an ideal time to begin reading children’s books, and playing children’s stories on tape.

WHEN TO WORRY:

  • If baby doesn’t make eye contact
  • If baby doesn’t create vowel sounds
  • If baby doesn’t respond to his or her name around 6 months
  • If baby doesn’t babble by 9 months
  • If baby doesn’t say simple single words at 12 months

 

12 to 18 Months: Baby’s Basic Vocabulary

Your baby is beginning to grasp the power of communication. In the early months of this stage of development, infants will have an average sentence length of 1-2 words. By 18 months, they may use 2 word combinations. It is common for them to have a vocabulary of 10 to 20 words that they use consistently and appropriately. They begin to use adjectives (ie: big, red, tall) and verbs (ie: run, jump) along with the nouns they already use.

WHEN TO WORRY:

  • If baby doesn’t point to things
  • If baby doesn’t expand vocabulary
  • If baby loses any language skills he or she once had

 

18 to 24 Months: Baby’s First Sentences

Two years of age is typically when a huge language explosion occurs. At this age, babies can usually understand and follow simple directions and begin to identify body parts. By the end of 2 years of age, most children will have a vocabulary of 200 words and will be able to consistently use 2-3 word sentences (i.e, “More please” and “Me go outside”). This is also the stage when they begin to ask “Why” questions to learn more about their world. They can also usually say their own name at this point.

WHEN TO WORRY:

  • If baby doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • If baby can’t imitate words or actions or point to body parts
  • If baby only uses single words
  • If baby only has a vocabulary of only 20 words
  • If baby uses gestures such as pointing more than words to communicate

 

24-36 Months: Your Talking Toddler

During this stage, there is a fast increase in understanding of language and children may understand anywhere from 400 to 800 words. They typically use longer sentences that consist of 2-4 word combinations and their speech can be understood at least 90% of the time. At this stage, parents will be surprised at the type of conversations they can have with their toddlers, as they begin to describe their experiences, tell short stories or describe pictures in detail. Pronouns have begun to make sense to your little one at this time. Your toddler finally knows what “I” means, understands the difference between “you” and “me” and can form simple sentences. There are many great educational activities for toddlers at this age. This is a great time to continue reading to your little one and begin introducing children’s songs and nursery rhymes to them.

WHEN TO WORRY:

  • Your child doesn’t use 2-3 word phrases by 36 months
  • Your child does not follow simple instructions
  • You cannot understand what your child is saying
  • Your child is using pointing, pulling and pushing more than words to communicate their needs
  • Your child becomes frustrated, angry or tearful when trying to tell you something and you do not understand what they want

Delayed speech in toddlers can be worrisome. We hope this information about developmental milestones for infants and child development stages has been helpful and reassuring!

If your child differs from the average examples listed above, rest assured there is no need to panic. Remember that each child varies in their stages of development. Schedule an appointment today with an early intervention provider in your area. They will assess your child’s language and developmental needs and can guide you in the right direction to best help your child.

MECA Therapies is one of three early intervention providers in Las Cruces. MECA Therapies works with children between the ages of birth to three and beyond to ensure your child is meeting his or milestones. Our therapists work directly with you and your child every step of the way to develop and meet the goals and needs of you and your child. Check out our blog for other informative pieces about early childhood development!