Encouraging Baby to talk

Learning to speak is a process that begins at birth when your baby hears how voices sound. Your baby listens to your voice, and helping our babies acquire language skills may be easier and more natural than we think. 

Play is one way to help babies develop, learn and explore the world. Playing with your baby gives you many opportunities to talk. And the more you play and talk together, the more words your baby hears. This improves your baby’s talking skills and also helps their brain develop.

Language development happens in the same order in most children, but some might learn quickly, and others might need more time. As your baby starts to learn, you might hear them coo, gurgle, or babble. Babies can also put together simple sounds – for example, “ma-ma” or “da-da.” One of the babies’ most common first sounds is “no” with a head shake.

At around 12 months, your baby will say a few words and know what they mean. For example, they might say “mama” or “dada” to refer to mom and dad.

Ideas to encourage talking

The more words your baby hears, the more words he can learn. Here are a few fun things to do together to encourage your baby to talk:

Total Exposure

Self-talk is an excellent way to achieve this goal. Broadcast every detail of your world to the most critical listener of all. It may feel silly but just talk about anything and everything you do when your baby can hear it. Parents can end up sharing thousands of words an hour and turn this routing into a fun, language-based learning experience.

Make Conversation

Allow for a response when speaking to your child, even if he isn’t old or verbal enough to give one. Second, exercise patience. If your child mistakenly identifies a color or says a wrong word, acknowledge the effort and correct it. Finally, turn off the television or do not give any gadgets. Nothing can substitute for face-to-face, one-on-one interactions.

Success = Reward

When your child picks new words and phrases, clap like a cheerleader. Have fun! Dance if you feel like it when your baby strings together two or three words. Ask open-ended questions. Be sure to allow time for your baby to respond in her way. Perhaps most importantly, engage your child and look him in the eye when speaking to him. 

Look who’s talking

Though every child is different, there’s a predictable progression in his language skills. Here’s a look at what to expect when.

0-3 months

Mostly cooing and gurgling. Children mimic certain noises and are particularly interested in the pitch and level of your voice. Sing and talk to your baby. Also, plan for quiet time. Babies require time to babble and play quietly away from the TV and other distractions.

3-6 months

Your child is learning how people communicate with one another. You can help him become a “talker” when you hold him so he can look you in your eyes, speak to him, and smile. Repeat the word if he tries to make the same sound as you.

6-9 months

Your baby will play with sounds. Some of these sounds are like words like “ba-ba” or “dada.” They will smile when hearing a happy voice and cry or look unhappy when hearing an angry voice.

9-12 months

Simple words will be understood by your baby. She stops to look at you if you say no. She will look for you if someone asks her where mommy is. She will point, make sounds, and use her body to tell you what she wants. For example, she may look up at you and lift her arms to show you she wants to be carried or up.  

12 – 18 months

Babies begin to use words. This includes using the same sounds consistently to identify an object. Vocabulary grows exponentially; multiple word combinations are not unusual. He will give you a toy if you ask for it or look at it and babble. 

18 – 30 months

Your baby can follow directions and begin to put words together, such as “go out” or “want juice.” He will also begin to pretend play. You can spur your child’s communication skills when you ask your child to help you, sing nursery rhymes, read, point, and tell, and encourage your child to talk to friends and family. 

Always remember to praise your child’s effort to talk. Though every child develops at his own pace, if by 18 months you have concerns about your child’s language development or if he is not speaking at least 15 words, it’s a good idea to talk to your child and family health nurse, GP, or pediatrician. For example, you might be concerned if your baby doesn’t babble or doesn’t seem to hear you listen when others are talking.