Although your baby won’t be having a conversation with you at 3 months of age, they are certainly taking in everything you are saying to them! This is one of the reasons why it is important to talk to them as if they are a talker, even when they may not be responding to you anytime soon.
Whether it’s asking questions, pointing out things around the house or reading simple books – these are all simple ways that you can expose your little one to language.
The beginnings of language
Just as your baby has to crawl before they can walk, they have to engage in baby babble before they talk. Those sweet coos and gurgling noises are actually the beginnings of language for your baby
Speech language pathologist and founder of Play On Words says ‘Babbling is an important milestone because it represents the beginning of real communication, when a baby starts experimenting with sounds, listening for a reaction, responding, and building social relationships’.
Your little one will learn the rules of language simply by watching how you react to her sounds and conversational patterns as you take turns talking. This is learnt from the very beginning of their life, and why it is so important to interact with your baby, despite it seeming a one sided conversation.
You can expect your baby to make coos at around 2 to 3 months old. Babbling will start at around 4 months of age – typically with lots of ‘p’, ‘b’ and ‘m’ sounds. Gurgling noises will also be heard at this stage, generally during play or excitement.
Here are a few ways you can support your baby’s speech development
✔︎ Engage in conversation with your baby as much as possible: point things out, name different toys and generally interact with them. The more you talk, the better it is for your baby’s language development in the future. While a baby might be able to learn new words from television, they won’t be able to learn the art of communication by simply watching. Hearing a parents speech in response to theirs will motivate your baby and help them understand their own language skills.
✔︎ Pause after you say something, so that your baby has the time to process what you’ve said, and even respond with a sound. Remember to teach at your baby’s pace, they are using a lot of energy and brain power to try and keep up with you.
✔︎ Use different tones whilst reading them a book, this will encourage learning of new sounds. When you read, your baby will hear you express different emotions – encouraging social and emotional development. This will encourage language skills when your baby tries to mimic sounds and therefore learn new words.
✔︎ Try to decode your baby’s language ie, if your baby says a combination of sounds such as ‘muh muh muh’, you might look around and say ‘oh, are you looking for your bottle? Here is your bottle’.
✔︎ Sing to your baby or listen to music together.
When will my baby say their first word?
Your baby will likely say their first word by their first birthday – it might not be immediately clear what they are saying, but you will notice that it is definitely intentional. They might be able to point to a familiar object and name it, or respond to a request such as ‘would you like more carrot’, answering ‘yes’.
Should your baby say a word like ‘ball’ or ‘dada’, it is worth encouraging the conversation, so that this word is repeated throughout. Encourage your baby in any way you can to keep going. After all, repetition is a technique used in so many areas of learning and has shown incredible success.
By age 2, your child will likely be able to combine two words together. For example, they may be able to say ‘want more’ or ‘no cheese’. You will still have to do some decoding to understand exactly what they mean sometimes – but that is half the fun!
By age 3, your child will likely be able to combine three words together. They may say things like ‘get in car’ or ‘go to park’.
How important is reading to your baby?
Research has shown, that babies who have been read to in the early months have better language comprehension, more expressive vocabularies and higher cognition scores by age 2 – than those who were not read to.
If you hand your 6 month old a board book to interact with on their own, they’re not likely to read it to themselves are they? No, it will probably end up straight in their mouth and become their new favourite teether. And what about your newborn? They’re not following the story line, so is it really necessary to spend the time reading to them? Yes!
Reading to your baby, even though they may not be riveted by the story yet, can drastically improve listening skills, attention span, memory and is very important for general stimulation. Hearing different stories will also help to build a rich network of words in your baby’s brain.
Try to set aside a time to read every day i.e before a nap or bedtime. This will help to establish a nice routine that will continue well into childhood. Reading aloud for a few minutes at a time is enough, so be sure not to over complicate it. Don’t worry too much if you don’t finish an entire book, a few pages at a time is the perfect amount. The best books for babies are ones that have simple, repetitive text and clear pictures.
During their first few months of life, your little one will just enjoy hearing your voice, so you can read almost anything and they will enjoy it. As your baby gets older and more interested, choose books with simple illustrations against solid backgrounds.
Things to consider
If you’re concerned about your baby’s speech and language development, you should have your paediatrician or GP evaluate them. Here are some things to look out for:
- An infant who isn’t responding to a sound or isn’t vocalising by 6 to 9 months of age.
- Between 12 to 24 months, toddlers who are not using gestures such as waving, or prefer gestures than using any sound at all.
For recommendations on the best books to read to your baby or toddler, visit the Kiindred App and search our Book Club in the Homefeed.