Parents are often anxious to hear baby utter their first words and understandably so—communication skills are vital for early years right through to adulthood.
Language and speech development begins early on, way before baby even speaks their first words. Parents will notice that their little one will start babbling, making sounds and trying to have a ‘conversation’ by around three months old. When they reach nine months old, infants can even begin to understand basic words like ‘bye bye’ or ‘no’. According to leading organisation Talking Point, children typically utter their first words (this may be variation of mummum or dadda) at about the age of one. Speech dramatically increases from then on; by 18 months, children are able to use around 20 words and by two years of age this increases to 50 words. By this point, children will also be able to string simple two-word sentences like ‘carry me’ together. By five years, a child’s vocabulary expands rapidly and reaches around 2,500 words.
Communication skills are vital for children who will rely on speech and language to describe what they see, hear and feel throughout their lifetimes. It also facilitates learning at school and good behaviour in social situations from an early age. While language milestones exist to give parents a general idea as to where their children should be in terms of speech development, it is important to note that not all children develop at the same rate.
There are many ways parents can encourage their little ones to speak from an early age—even when they are not yet ready to. Consistently talk and chat with your baby at key times like nappy changing, feeding or bathing and talk to them throughout your regular daily routine. This will encourage them to make associations between what you are saying and certain objects around them.
When your child becomes familiar with using two-word sentences, build on them and respond using three or four-word sentences. For example, if your child says ‘a dog’, you can respond with ‘yes, a fluffy dog’. Another simple technique to get your child to strengthen associations between words and objects is to present them with choices, such as ‘would you like a banana or an apple?’
If you are worried about the development of your child’s speech, speak to your health visitor to see whether it is developing at a normal rate. If it isn’t, they may be referred to a speech and language therapist.
Do dummies affect speech?
Dummies are often used to settle babies and provide a source of comfort, but various sources indicate that dummy use may negatively impact speech development. Babies and young children may be less likely to copy sounds or experiment with babbling if using a pacifier, both of which are crucial in speech and language development.
This article was first published in Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh magazine. Read the digital edition, here.