January 16, 2024

Guide to When Babies Start Talking

Guide to When Babies Start Talking

When Do Babies Start Talking?

Photo by: Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

As a new parent, you are probably anticipating the thrill of your baby's first speech milestone. Your little one is absorbing every word you share, gearing up to unlock the secret of expressing themselves. From charming coos to a delightful symphony of vowels and consonants, your baby's vocal expressions may be both endearing and whimsically nonsensical! But when do babies start talking? Pay close attention, for amidst these joyful experiments, there comes a moment when you'll hear it: the magical utterance of their very first real word!

At what age do babies start talking? While each baby's speech journey is unique, their language development has recognizable signals and stages. Moreover, there are methods to foster the early development of associations and the formation of words in babies.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the fascinating world of infant language development, exploring the intricacies of the question "when do babies start talking". Find out when babies start to talk, what you can expect, and what to do if your baby isn’t hitting certain milestones.

Unveiling the Wonders of Baby Talk

Photo by: Rodrigo Pereira on Unsplash

Before your baby learns to talk, they begin to babble. Babbling is the foundation of verbal communication and is your baby’s first attempt at speaking a language.

At around 4 months, your baby begins babbling, mimicking the rhythms of their language. Though it may sound playful, listen closely—they experiment with voice tones. Encourage your child by chatting with them. When they make a sound, repeat it and introduce related words. For example, if they say "bah," share words like "bottle" and "box."

At 6 or 7 months, they actively imitate speech sounds. They might repeat one sound for a while before trying another. At this time, they respond more to the sounds you make. Teach them simple words like "car," "baby," "cat," "dog," "go," "hot," "walk," "mama," and "dada." It may take a year or more before their babbling turns into clear words, but they understand more words than you think. Your baby's language journey is gradual, and your guidance is vital. When you respond to their babbling with smiles and chats, you're helping them learn even faster.

When Do Children Start Talking? Guide to Your Baby's Talking Journey

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

When do babies say their first word? Usually, they say their first words between 7 and 12 months of age and can construct coherent sentences by 2–3 years of age. But here's the thing—every baby is a superstar, and some take a bit more time, and that's fine.

Generally, most babies say their first words by one year of age. However, it is essential to note that all babies develop language at different rates. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers the following approximate timeline of language development:

  • 0 to 3 months: Babies recognize their parents' voices and express feelings through sounds.
  • 4 to 6 months: They begin responding to changes in tone, tracking sounds with their eyes, and indulging in delightful babbling.
  • 7 months to 1 year: Little ones start comprehending essential words, responding to simple requests, and using gestures to communicate. By the end of this phase, a few words may even make their charming debut—words like “mama” and “dada.” The first words will be the most common things in your child’s world, like banana, apple, ball, car, mama, and dada.
  • 12 to 24 months: They talk more clearly and have more words by about 18 months. They understand basic questions, engage with stories, and frequently add new words to their vocabulary. Some may even start combining words to ask questions or express needs. 
  • At this point, your child may have a vocabulary of 50 to 100 words. 
  • 2 to 3 years: By the time your toddler reaches 36 months, they probably have a vocabulary of 200 words or more, although you might not be keeping track anymore. At this age, many kids can put together sentences consisting of three or four words and effectively reference most items in their surroundings. 
  • 3 to 4 years: They advance to describing activities, constructing more complex sentences, and speaking fluently.
  • 4 to 5 years: They now use detailed sentences, share captivating stories, and effortlessly communicate with those around them.

Chatter Charms: Strategies to Foster Your Baby's Speech Skills!

  1. Talk More Often – Studies show that the more you chat with your baby, the more words they learn. When your little one points to something, like a door, say its name out loud. Make it even more memorable by showing the door as you speak— babies learn best in real situations.
  2. Use Proper and Complete Names – Call people by their names instead of saying "he" or "she." This helps your baby connect names with faces, making it easier for children to start talking.
  3. Smile Back at Your Baby – This exchange is a form of communication. Your little one begins to understand signals and develop the ability to respond.
  4. Speak Loud and Clear – Help your baby learn speech sounds by speaking slowly and clearly. If you want them to say "grandma," break it down like this: "ggrraanndd-mmaaa." It might sound funny, but it helps.
  5. Sing, Read, and Make Learning Fun – Sing songs and read rhymes; it's an age-old practice for a reason. Music and language go hand in hand, and your baby loves to hear your voice. They learn valuable language skills from nursery rhymes and simple rhythms and repetitions in songs. So, belt out your favorite tunes and read those rhymes.
  6. Repeat Often – When your baby starts chatting, reply with clear words and repeat them. For instance, if they utter "doggy" while looking at a fluffy friend, pat the dog, and repeatedly say the word. Saying things twice, singing the same songs, or pointing out the same objects helps reinforce what words mean to your growing baby.
  7. Don’t Be in a Hurry, Give Time – Talking is new for babies, so give them time to process and respond. Use pauses during conversations to see if your little one has something to say with words or gestures. 
  8. Say No to TV Time – Turn off the TV and engage in real conversations. Babies connect and learn more when talking with you, not from a screen.
  9. Encourage Imitation – Describe what you're doing using specific words. Encourage your baby to repeat after you. For example, "Can you say 'milk'?" and see if she tries to mimic you.
  10. Converse and Engage – As your toddler begins talking, help them build on their words by elaborating on what they express. For instance, If your little one points to a cat and mentions "cat," you can respond: "Yes, such a cute cat. The cat is sitting. Can you hear the cat purring?" When your child mentions "car," respond with: "That's a red car. The car is moving!"

Is Your Baby Not Talking? What to Do?

Your little one may not exactly be the chatterbox you imagined. First things first, there's a massive spectrum of "normal" when it comes to babies and their language journey. Sometimes, it's like they've been silently absorbing everything, and then bam, they unleash a language extravaganza seemingly out of the blue.

Baby boys are slower to develop language skills than girls. It's all about brain function—male brains function more unilaterally, with each side of the brain working separately. The female brains are more bilateral, with both sides of the brain working together.

So, if your little guy is taking his sweet time, don’t worry. Girls might be quick to catch tones and social cues, but boys, well, they've got their own pace.

Boys may be a few months behind the girl squad in language skills, but they catch up entirely by age 3.

Signs that Your Child May Need Help with Speech and Language Development

Consult your pediatrician if your baby does NOT:

  • Smile or interact for 3 months 
  • Babble at 7 months
  • Make sounds and use no gestures between 7 and 12 months 
  • Show interest or attempt to communicate (such as pointing or gesturing) by 15 months
  • Imitate a variety of sounds and words by 18 months
  • Follow simple directions by 18 months ("Bring the ball.")
  • Use word combinations by age 2 (“Papa go." "Mumma sit.")
  • Identify people and objects in their environment
  • Say fewer than 50 words and rarely communicate or play with other children between the ages of 2 and 3 years

Other signs of potential speech issues in children include:

  • If your child possesses a good vocabulary, yet their words remain unclear by age 2.5 or 3 years.
  • Your child experiences an abrupt decline in speech and language abilities.

Remember that all babies develop differently—some pick up language right away, while others take time. Some babies start speaking early but take longer to use coherent sentences.

In most cases, language development delays do not indicate a disorder. However, some children need additional support that encourages speech. If you are concerned about your child's speech development and there are signs of delay, speak to their healthcare provider. Speech delays can stem from various reasons, including hearing loss and developmental factors. The care provider may refer your child to specialists like an audiologist for hearing concerns or a speech-language therapist for speech-related issues.

If your child is bilingual, a bilingual speech-language pathologist can assess them in both languages.

Conclusion

Remember, every child is unique and has their own extraordinary language journey. When your baby finally says that first word, prepare for a new adventure. While you wait, enjoy those sweet babbles and curious coos. If you still wonder when that awesome first word will pop out—read, sing, and talk to your baby more. And if things seem a bit different, extra support is all your child needs. Early intervention can make a big difference! Remember, there is no single answer to the question "when do babies start talking?"

Enroll in relevant screen-free courses to enhance your child’s speech and language skills. Yes, you heard that right! One such program is the Prodigy Baby System. Offered by Raising Superstars, it  focuses on developing athleticism and creativity skills while diving deep into logic, memory, music, and language & speech. It helps the baby grasp core concepts before age 3, acts as a bridge to toddlerhood, and develops skills in various areas, leaving a visibly lasting impact.

Besides this, incorporate simple practices into your routine: read a story, sing a song, and engage in meaningful conversations with your little one. Embrace the joy of fostering their language development.  

Please share your experiences, challenges, insights, and suggestions regarding your child's speech and language development adventure. Share your valuable journey with fellow parents!


Ready to Get Started?

Take the parent quiz