One of the most exciting milestones for new parents is when baby says their first words. Sure, this might sound like babbling in the beginning. But eventually, that turns into their first utterance and, ultimately, complete thoughts and sentences. But how do you get from “goo-goo-ga-ga” to “thanks, Mama!” in the first place? In short: a lot of time and patience. Even if you’re not sure how to teach baby to talk (beyond, perhaps, singing the ABCs song), know that you don’t have to be a speech and language pathologist to get the job done.
In fact, there’s plenty you can do at home to encourage your baby to talk. Here’s what you need to know about how to teach a baby to talk, including how to boost their language development.
How to Teach Baby to Talk
As a parent, you naturally want to do anything you can do to help your child — including assisting with your baby’s language and speech development, and encouraging them to talk. But how, exactly, do you do that? As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to teach a baby to talk. So, when you’re ready to boost your little one’s language development, here are a few tried-and-true methods.
- Talk to them! If you’re not sure what to say, get in the habit of narrating what you’re doing and what you see around you.
- Talk while you’re playing with them. Don’t make towers of blocks in silence; get to chattin’, Mama.
- Speak with them as if they were an actual human person. While a little affectionate “baby talk” is fine from time-to-time, keep in mind that your baby learns how to speak by listening to and imitating you.
- Read to them. Books, the back of the mac and cheese box, whatever. The more reading, the better.
- Sing songs to (and eventually with) them.
- Teach them to imitate actions, like clapping.
- Teach them how to make different sounds with their mouths, like animal noises.
- Practice counting with your child — even if they haven’t demonstrated an affinity for math in their first few months of being alive.
- Give your child obvious encouragement when they speak or start to make semi-structured sounds.
- Give them quiet time. Yes, we realize this sounds counterintuitive. However, one important way babies gain confidence in talking is by babbling on their own. It’s their way of figuring out how to form words.
How to Know What’s ‘Normal’
Like most other aspects of parenting, it may be tempting to compare your baby’s language development to the progress made by their peers. Try not to do that. As much as we’d love it if all babies stuck to the same developmental timeline, that’s not how it works. Babies tend to do things at their own pace, and this is especially true when it comes to talking. You may be worried your little one is lagging behind, but it’s entirely likely that they’re just doing things in their own time. Don’t let panic be your go-to response.
But at the same time, general milestones can serve as a guide to normal speech and language development in babies, providing parents and doctors with possible clues that they may need a little extra help. For example, babies usually start babbling between six and nine months, with their first word usually coming between 10 and 15 months.
While, in general, boys tend to say their first words later than girls, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. It’s still important to remember that babies develop speech and language at different speeds. If, for example, your child is not talking at four years of age, it’s a good idea to talk to their pediatrician about it, as it could be the sign of a speech or language delay. And if it turns out that’s the case, don’t worry — there are speech therapy treatments that can help.
What is a late talker?
Each child is unique and learns language at their own pace. However, if you’re concerned your tot is lagging a little behind, here are a few ways to tell. Usually, at 18 months kids are saying at least five to 10 words, and at 24 months at least 50. If your kiddo is limited in their speech at these stages, reach out to your doctor or see above for ways to boost their baby talk.