Babies Start To Learn Language Before They Speak
Your baby's brain is 'wired' at birth to listen to and learn the language spoken around him. Babies need to listen to and participate in 'conversations' with other people, especially their parents. Leaving a baby in a crib all day or putting him in front of a television is not helpful for language development.
Reading Baby's Signals
Long before your baby speaks, he communicates using sounds, facial expressions and gestures:
From six to 12 months, babies start using gestures to communicate. He will reach with his hands for things he wants. Later, he will point at things he wants you to look at.
When your baby turns away from certain foods, he is telling you he doesn't want it. Later, he learns to use the more sophisticated gesture of shaking his head. The dreaded word 'NO' has arrived!
Your baby will display different sounds with different meanings. For example, a loud scream gets your attention. Different tones of voice tell you how he feels.
Another milestone at this age is babbling. "Ma-Ma-Ma" or "Da-Da" may not be your baby trying to say "Mom" or "Dad". These long strings of sounds are a 'practice' period for language.
First Steps, First Words
Many babies speak their first words about the same time they take their first steps - between nine and 15 months.
First words fall into five categories: names of people or things (such as "Mommy" or "juice"), action words ("go" or "eat"), places or directions ("up" or "down"), describing words ("hot") and social words ("bye"). These words are important building blocks for later word combinations and for simple sentences that start at around two years. At this point, a child understands much more language than he can speak.
Toddlers may not speak clearly at first. They may drop endings from words and simplify longer words.
After children can say about 50 words, they go through an important language explosion. From 18 to 24 months, they start joining words into small sentences, such as "More juice" and "Doggie gone." If your child does not do this by this stage, he should see a speech-language pathologist.
Helping Toddlers Talk
If you're concerned about your child's language development, ask his doctor to refer him to a speech-language pathologist. Language is too important to "wait and see." PC
Paula Moss is a speech-language pathologist in
Published in March 2007