“When will my baby start talking?” – Is a common question often asked by many new parents.
Since the time of your baby’s birth, till the time she utters his first words, you will hear him cry, babble, coo and play with sounds. But you will longingly wait for that magical moment in your life when you will hear him say, “mama”, “dada” or maybe something else, for the very first time.
To be more specific, a baby’s speech development (within its first three years) primarily depends upon her brain development1.
Although there is a wide of normal with regards to toddlers achieving their speech milestones. As parents there’s a lot that you can do to encourage your baby to become an early talker, during this brain developing stage.
We have curated a list for you below:
- Watch Carefully: Your 1-year old little bundle of joy now understands a lot of words than he can truly express. And, according to Michelle Macias, MD, professor of paediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, “For 1-year olds, using gestures as non-verbal communication is an important skill you can encourage”2. So, watch your baby, when maybe s/he reaches out to you with both his arms and wants to be picked up. Or maybe holds a toy in front of you to say he wants to play. Follow the actions, smile at him, make eye contact with him, respond to him and help him or her connect the words with actions.
- Listen Patiently: Through your baby’s cooing and babbling, it might just turn out that s/he is trying to imitate the sound s/he hears from you. Sometimes, the baby may try to bring a difference in the pitch and tone just to match what he hears. So, listen to him patiently and give him ample of time to talk to you. Only remember, using short, simple but correct words when you are talking in front of him or talking to him.
- Use the Right Words: It’s okay if your 1-year old little champ calls his bottle “ba-ba”. But, going by the words of Stuart Teplin, M.D, a developmental and behavioural paediatrician in Concord, North Carolina, “Parents need to stay one step ahead of their child’s stage”3. Therefore, when you as new parents hear him calling his bottle in his own babyish language, it is your duty to use the real word in front of him. This in a way will help learn a new word (in your language) and expand his vocabulary.
- Read Out Aloud: Did you know that, reading out aloud to your child as much as possible, can help in improving his learning capacity and develop his speech skills? So, open the baby book, talk about what you see in the pictures and sometimes expect him to answer some of your questions, in simple “yes” or “no”. A 2019 study, for example has shown that, reading out one book every day can help children get exposed to at least 1.4 million words4.
- Narrate: Your baby can’t talk; doesn’t mean you also have to remain silent. In fact, the more talkative and expressive you are, it is better, easier and earlier for the child to learn. So, talk about anything that comes to your mind first. Maybe you could tell him what you’ve done throughout the day. Or narrate to him as you wash, dress, feed or change him. Your baby may not understand everything at the beginning, but slowly he will be able to connect the actions to its relevant words. But, remember to stick to one language when you communicate not only with the baby, but even with others in the family. As the baby, in the initial years maybe confused if he hears multiple languages being spoken to at the same time.
- Name it: Your toddler may point out at an object, instead of directly asking for it. Follow where he is pointing at, interpret his actions and name the item. This way you are helping him learn the names this way. Isn’t it?
- Elaborate: For example, your child sees a dog and utters the word “dog”. Elaborate on the word “dog” by saying, “yes that’s a brown dog” or “The dog is barking” in response. In this way, your child’s sure to understand the elaborations of your responses and expands his or her vocabulary.
- Let him Identify: For example, you have two glasses of juices – orange and mango. Show the two glasses to your child and ask him to choose. Don’t encourage your child if he simply points out at one of the glasses. Ask him to identify and name the juice he wants to drink.
- Reduce screen time: Studies by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) encourages not more than 1 hour of screen time per day in kids in-between the age of 2 to 5. In fact, they suggest young children to spend even lesser time in front of the screen. Experts are of the opinion that, not staring at the screen and spending more time talking to people is the best way to promote language development in babies.
But What If Your Child Is Not Talking?
A speech delay necessarily does not necessarily indicate any other developmental delays in a baby. Remember all kids develop differently, some master their gross motor skills early, while others their communication skills. However, trust your mommy instincts and discuss your baby’s speech developmental concerns with the paediatrician during his next check-up.