One of the things I love the most about working with kids, is their language development! It is SO much fun to see them get so excited over new language. Within the last few weeks language around our house as completely taken off. From One word sentences to 2-3 word sentences in what seems like over night. So, I have been in toddler talk excitement mode all week. Here is an easy Month to Month guide of where your child will be at each phase in the early childhood language department!
Birth to 6 Months
What your baby should be saying: Babies are born with the ability to listen. Your baby will begin to associate sounds and link them with things they hear and see. For example: Linking the family dog to a bark. The first communication your baby uses will be crying. BUT they will start to use their tongue, lips, and palate to make coos, goo goos, oohs, and aahs.
What your baby is understanding: Interesting fact: babies as young as 4 weeks old can distinguish between similar syllables like “ma” and “na.” As young as 2 months, they begin to associate certain sounds with certain lip movements. This is why accentuating your mouth movements while talking to your baby is helping them with language! Don’t let anyone tease you for those overly excited goos and gas when talking to your baby!! You are helping with their language development!!
4 to 6 Months
What your baby should be saying: Tiny coos and sighs are starting to turn into babbling! Does it not just melt you into butter when your tiny little baby starts telling those baby stories? You’ll probably start to hear back of the mouth sounds. Sounds like: g and k, and front of the mouth sounds like: m, w, p, and b are starting to show up. By this time your baby will be starting to focus on familiar words (mommy, daddy, their own name…)
What your baby is understanding: At 4-1/2 months, your baby might recognize their name. But they won’t quite realize that its their name yet. They will only understand it as an important word, ( Kinda like “Hi!” or “Bye!”) It’s not until 6 months, at the earliest, that your baby realize his/her name is actually referring to them!
7 to 12 Months
What your baby should be saying: Your baby’s babbling is going to start to sound more like words!! (This is one of the funnest stages) I remember all of a sudden saying, “Did he just say ball?!!” So fun!! Your baby will be intentionally repeating sounds (like “gaga”) over and over. At about 9 months, they start to understand that gestures (pointing, grunting etc..) can get them what they want.
At about 10 months, babies start to have a little more control and combine sounds. You will typically see your baby’s first words around 12 months. (This is give or take depending on your child! If they haven’t said their first words by about 14 months talk to your pediatrician) The most common first words are normally typical greetings (“hi” or “bye-bye”). Or they might be their favorite people or things that they see and hear consistently. (“ma, ma” or “da, da”), pets (“doggy” or “kitty”), or food (“cookie,” “juice,” or “milk”).
What your baby is understanding: You will probably notice that your baby is starting to understand a few words, things like names and everyday objects such as “bottle”,”crib”, “snack.” Babies at this age will also start to notice and key in on intonation. They will start to realize that a sharp tone often means “No!” or “Stop!” (This does NOT mean they will start cooperating when you say no or stop….I’m almost positive this doesn’t come until at least 25 years of age.)
13 to 18 Months
What your toddler should be saying: As soon as your baby gets that first word goin’, they will start trying out more and more new words. Vocabulary builds pretty slowly at first (you will probably see a few words a month).
What your toddler is understanding: Your baby should understand the first rudiments of grammar. Um…what does that mean? It basically just means they will understand the differences in “The dog bit the boy” or the “Boy bit the dog” Make sense? They should also start to follow simple instructions and understand many more words than they are saying! By now your child should be following simple 1 step directions. (Go get your shoes, touch your nose etc…)
What your toddler is doing: Research hasn’t quite found out the cause for this but at about 19 to 20 months kids normally have what they call a “language explosion”. You will probably feel like your baby is having slow progress for months and months and then BOOM! They are speaking like crazy. They will start to learn words at a CRAZY rate, as many as nine a day. (That seriously blows my mind!!!!)
This explosion of words leads to the ever fun “Wassat?” stage. By the time your toddler is turning two they should be stringing two, or even four, words together in sentences. I love this stage because of the cute little mistakes in grammar and word usage that kids use! Your child may have learned that the round toy is a “ball,” Then of course after that they figure all round things must be balls and point to the full moon, and yell , “Ball!”
What your toddler is understanding: Your baby will slowly begin to understand the idea of verbs. Fully aware that you are the key to language, they will be constantly watching and listening to you, absorbing everything you say and do. So be careful! They are fully in the “Monkey See, Monkey Do Phase” Or maybe we should say Monkey say, Monkey Repeat! Kids tend to choose the most embarrassing places to spout off those off color words or interesting phrases you use at home. (Yikes)
25 to 36 Months
What your toddler is saying: The third year is SO fun! They are finally starting to put it all together. “Wassat” Soon turns into “When? Why? How? Where?” (Can you say 21 questions?) They will start to add and understand more complex ideas. Things like “no” can mean “not” or “don’t” or “it’s all gone.”” As their tiny memories grow, they starts to tell short stories. Get your pen and paper out! Because you WILL want to remember the hilarious things they say and the funny stories they tell. You will LOVE looking back on those funny stories later. So write them down!
What your toddler is understanding: They will begin to understand tense, plurals, and suffixes things like “ing” and “ly.”
Things you can do to help with language development: Rhyming games help build awareness of language sounds. If he makes a mistake, repeat the sentence back correctly instead of drawing attention to their mistake. Drawing attention to the mistake can make them shy, nervous and embarrassed to try again. For example, if he says, “I goed playground.” You can say back, “Oh you went to the playground? Great!” For more tips check out the following links:
What needs to happen before my child will talk?
If you are concerned about your child’s speech talk to your pediatrician!
Resources: Parents Magazine