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When Do Babies Start Talking? From Babble To Big Words

When Do Babies Start Talking?

Babies start making repetitive noises by the time they are 6 months old. They typically say their first words by 12 months and have an expanded vocabulary of 6–20 words by the time they are 18 months. You can expect short two-word phrases by 2 years and sentences between 3 and 4 years. Help them along by reading and singing to them and holding conversations.

Baby boys typically start talking later than girls but won’t be too far behind! They tend to speak at the later end of the age range for each speech milestone while girls start at the earlier end.1

There’s nothing more joyous and wonderous than hearing a baby say their first words. And if you’re anxiously waiting for your little one to start chatting away, here’s a timeline on when you can expect that to happen. We’ve also got some tips that can help your baby pick up language and speech skills like a pro.2 3 4

Will Start Making Noises Between 4 And 6 Months

Between 4 and 6 months, your baby will catch on to the fact that they can make different noises with their mouths. So gear up for the sighs, coos, and babbles! They will now enunciate a variety of sounds including those that start with b, p, and m. They’ll also babble when they’re unhappy or excited, in a manner that resembles speech. By around 6 months they should be making repetitive sounds like ba-ba and guh-guh.

“Baby talk” or “parentese” with exaggerated expressions, a sing-song tone, and small rhyming words is good for your baby in the initial months. This helps them process information much faster and distinguish between sounds. The adult conversations can come much later!5

Tips to encourage your baby

  • Babies love being talked to, so chat away! Tell them what you’re doing when you bathe, feed, or change them. Holding them close and looking at them while you talk also engages them.
  • Conversations have to be two-way, so let them have their say too! Pause in between, ask a question, and give them a chance to babble back at you.
  • Singing helps them absorb the rhythm of language. So it’s time to belt out those classic rhymes like “Row, row, row your boat” which also come with actions.
  • Be animated! Talking in a sing-song voice and using exaggerated expressions also helps grab their attention.
  • Repeat what your baby says. This teaches them to listen and copy you. Start by saying what they say, whether it’s bah or goo and then try mouthing a word with similar sounds. They’ll soon catch on!

Will Say First Words By 12 Months

If you’ve been eagerly waiting for your baby’s first words, they should come by the time they’re a year old. Nothing fancy, but they’ll start saying simple words like “Mama,” “Dada,” “Hi,” or “cat.” They’ll also start responding to their name.

At this stage, don’t ramble incessantly or “talk it down” with your child. Instead, focus on two-way conversations and meaningful words, using less and less baby talk once they cross the one-year milestone.

Tips to encourage your baby

  • Introduce simple words linked to your daily lives, whether it’s people’s names, activities, or objects like your baby’s favorite toys. Point out things and name them. For instance, “Look, a puppy.” Your baby will learn new words this way. As your baby grows, you can add more words. For instance, “Look, a brown puppy.”
  • Now’s a good time to cut back on the baby talk and replace it with real words and adult talk.
  • Introduce your baby to books. You don’t need to read what’s written out loud. You can just look at pictures together and talk about what you’re seeing.
  • It’s difficult for a baby to babble or experiment with sounds when they have a pacifier. In fact, experts suggest that babies should be completely weaned off pacifiers by the age of one.6
  • Play time it is! Common games played with babies such as “peek-a-boo” teaches important skills like paying attention, listening, and turn taking. All strengths that will go a long way toward making an engaging conversationalist!

Will Have A Vocabulary Of 6 To 20 Words Between 12 And 18 Months

Your baby’s vocabulary will expand as they grow. Between 12 to 18 months they’ll be able to say anywhere between 6 and 20 words and understand even more. They’ll also talk during play – for instance, while pretending to talk on the phone or feed a doll.

Tips to encourage your child

  • Correct your baby without criticizing them. For instance, if your baby points to a hat and says “ha,” say “yes, it’s a hat.” Don’t scold them for getting a word wrong.
  • Sing nursery rhymes together. Singing rhymes and acting out the actions help your baby remember words better.
  • Get toys or books which make a noise. This will strengthen your baby’s listening skills.
  • Offer them choices to increase their vocabulary. For instance, you might want to ask, “Do you want a banana or an apple?”
  • Keep up the contact with books. You don’t have to read the story as it happens in the book. Sitting down together and talking about the pictures in the book is enough.

Will Use Short Phrases Between 18 Months And 2 Years

Between one and a half to two years, babies are able to put at least a couple of words together to make short phrases. So they’ll be able to say meaningful things like “Go bye-bye?”, “where dolly?”, or “more cookie.”

There is bound to be some variation in how each kid picks up speech and language skills. But if you’re seeing delays beyond the outer year range for these milestones and/or have also noted other developmental delays, have a word with your pediatrician.

Tips to encourage your child

  • Repeat words. Use the same word in various sentences so that your baby can remember them. For example, “Where’s your coat?”, “Do you like your pink coat?”, “Let’s put on your coat.”
  • Your baby will begin to understand instructions now. Keep it short and simple so they follow easily. For instance, “close the door” or “get the coat.”
  • Play the “where’s your…” game to improve vocabulary. Here, you name a body part and ask your child to point to it. For instance, “where’s your arm?”
  • Don’t let your baby watch TV for more than 20–30 minutes in a day. Listening to stories and playing are better at teaching them to talk.

Many children grow up in families where they are exposed to more than one language, say from each parent or another caregiver. Children will happily adapt to this. In fact, exposure to more than one language may help them become better communicators.7

Will Talk Well In Sentences Between 3 And 4 Years

Between 3 and 4 years, children start to use sentences with 4 words or more. They speak comfortably without needing to repeat words or syllables and well enough to be understood. They may chant rhymes and tell you what went on at the daycare or preschool.

Tips to encourage your child

  • Continue to develop their language skills by reading to them and chatting with them.
  • Introduce more and more words and slightly more complex sentences, using them in different scenarios so they pick these up.
  • Continue to focus more on what they say rather than how they say it. There’s plenty of time still to correct pronunciation!
  • Make the time to listen as much as you talk. That’s an important lesson of communication they’ll pick up from you.
  • Continue to praise and appreciate them especially when they learn a new word or articulate something clearly. Positive reinforcement will make them confident speakers.

References   [ + ]

1. Fact or Fiction? The Top 10 Assumptions about Early Speech and Language Development. The Hanen Centre.
2. Birth-to-5 development timeline. National Health Service.
3. Speech and Language Developmental Milestones. National Institutes of Health.
4. How babies Communicate. Nemours Foundation.
5. Golinkoff, Roberta M., and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. How babies talk: The magic and mystery of language in the first three years of life. Penguin, 2000.
6. Do dummies affect speech?. Talking Point.
7. Help your baby learn to talk. National Health Service.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.