Keys to Support Your Baby’s Speech Development
A: Typically, babies say their first word around the age of 1 (12 months). However, there are some babies who only begin to communicate at 18 months. It varies greatly from child to child, so there is no need to fret if your baby has not started speaking at the 1-year mark.
A: Typically, by 24 months, toddlers will begin to put words together and attempt to make their own sentences, and they are likely short and improper, but you may expect to start hearing “sentences” like “mama, food?” Afterwards, you may begin to brace yourself for a constant bombing of words, especially “why?”, since toddlers are incredibly curious!
A: While these are not sure-fire signs of developmental delay, you may want to talk to a professional if your child is not babbling at their 6th month, or they are not understanding/responding to simple words by the 18th month. You may want to pay attention to other signs of hearing loss or ASD, in the case of your child being unresponsive to speech around them.
A: Toddlers hear a word in the same way as an adult hears it. And sometimes, even if they know the proper pronunciation, they will find it hard to reproduce certain sounds, especially nasal sounds or liquids. If the adult imitates that, it can potentially confuse or frustrate the child. However, other forms of baby talk, especially simplification and repetition (e.g., “Look at that meow-meow!”), are good to use often as they can help the child remember the phrase.
A: Give your child as many opportunities to speak as you can! For instance, you can try keeping their toy out of reach but within sight, and encourage them to ask for the toy before you give it to them. Be appreciative and reward their attempts even if they do not get it right, as you would want them to try again next time, instead of stopping out of the fear of failure.
A: Exposing your child to both languages at birth is a good idea to help them develop multilingual abilities. Research has shown that babies are able to differentiate different languages at an early age, even before they begin to speak. However, you should avoid using different languages (code-mixing) in the same sentence, in order to not confuse your baby as they struggle to identify which language you are using.
A: You would want to avoid drawing attention to the mistake in order to not discourage them or give them a sense of shame in talking. Try repeating the sentence back correctly and confirming with them if that is what they meant. This way, your child will feel understood and appreciated as well! Remember that positive reinforcement is a more effective tool than negative feedback.
A: There is no one true standard for choosing books or songs, and the most important thing would be what interests your child and excites them. Some kids like trains, and some like dinosaurs—as long as they are age-appropriate, you should allow your kid’s interest to lead the choice. A rule of thumb would be choosing something that you can dance to and are largely applicable to daily lives, like the classic nursery rhyme “heads and shoulders, knees and toes”, and “I’m a little teapot”, which can help your child to learn those common words and link them with respective body language.
A: Children absolutely love repetitions, and it is actually good for them developmentally! Listening to something repeatedly creates a sense of comfort and also helps the child to absorb the vocabulary more comprehensively. Therefore, allow your child to cling to those books and songs until they are tired of them! I understand that the 3412837th time of playing “Baby Shark” is damaging to your psyche, but hey, at least your child is enjoying it and benefiting from it.
A: Good toddler-adult activities can include:
- Setting out two or three familiar objects and asking the child to get one;
- Calling attention to interesting things you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel;
- Reading storybooks with them and act them out;
- Singing nursery rhymes and songs;
- Verbally labelling items of clothing as the child is dressing and undressing;
- And anything that encourages your child to speak their mind!