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How Babies Learn to Talk (0-2 years)

A baby learns to talk by listening to voices and sounds. Soon your baby will begin to make sounds to tell you how he/she feels or what he/she wants.

Babies develop at their own rate. Some babies will do things at a young age. Some babies will take a little longer. Here are some things that most babies do.

Very young babies (up to three months old) will:

  • make noises (eg. coos, gurgles)
  • turn towards a new sound
  • jump at a loud noise
  • be calmed when you speak in a gentle voice
  • smile at you

By 6 months

Most babies will:

  • watch your face when you talk
  • cry in a different way when hungry
  • make noises to get attention
  • make sounds back when you talk
  • smile at you and other family members

When to call for help?

  • Your baby does not react to your voice or other sounds.
  • Your baby does not smile or make sounds when awake.

What you can do to help a young baby learn

  • talk to your baby a lot when you are washing, dressing, or feeding him/her
  • sing songs or nursery rhymes
  • play simple games like "peek-a-boo"
  • show your child picture books and talk about what you see

By 12 months

Most children will:

  • understand their own name
  • understand words like "bye-bye' or "up"
  • say sounds like "ba ba, no no, go go"
  • laugh and try to make sounds like you do

By 15 months

Most children will:

  • take turns making sounds
  • say 2 or 3 words, but not clearly
  • understand "no" and shake their head
  • reach or point to something they want while making a sound
  • understand simple questions or directions like "where is your nose?", "show me your shoe"

When to call for help?

  • Your child does not use words and sounds, but gestures to tell you what he or she wants

By 18 months

Most children will:

  • understand words and point to parts of their bodies like "nose, ear"
  • will look for things when asked to, like "get your hat"
  • make new gestures and/or words like you do
  • make gestures or ask for "more" or "again"

When to call for help?

  • Your child does not make gestures and sounds like you do.
  • Your child started to use words, but stopped.

By 21 months

Most children will:

  • point to a picture or sign, such as when asked "Where's McDonalds?
  • play with toys and pretend to do things like feeding a doll or going in a car
  • say a variety of words but may not put words together
  • follow directions such as "drink your juice " or "sit down, please"

When to call for help?

  • Your baby can only say about 10 words.
  • Your child does not pretend with toys.

By 24 months

Most children will:

  • understand more than they can say
  • say 2 words together, like "more milk"
  • say "what's that?" (may sound like "who dot? ' or "whassat?)
  • can pick one thing out from a group of objects, such as a cup

When to call for help?

  • You have a hard time understanding what your child says.
  • Your child uses very few words or does not put words together.

How can you help your child learn at this age?

  • Talk to your child simply, clearly, and slowly.
  • Look at your child when he or she talks to you,
  • Praise your child's efforts to talk.
  • Play children's music and stories and listen with your child.
  • Talk about new places and experiences before you go, while you are there, and when you get home.
  • Expand what your child says. If the child says "dog", you say "big dog.