Language Development in Babies

Babies skills grow dramatically in their first 2 years of life, including their communication skills. Communication and language skills are a vital part of healthy development for children in their early years. Being able to communicate allows children to engage in social interactions and learn from the environment around them.

During their first-year babies learn the skills required for both speech and language. You may be thinking, what is the difference? Well, speech refers to the sounds produced that form words, it is the physical part of communication controlled by the brain and requires the movements of the tongue, lips, voice box, jaw and lungs. These movements take a lot of practice and begin during an infant’s first year.

Language, however, refers to the rules that put those words together to express thoughts and feelings. Language is made up of four main components, which are as follows:

Phonology: the structure and sequence of speech sounds.

Semantics: vocabulary and how those words express concepts.

Grammar: the rules that determine how words are arranged into full sentences.

and pragmatics: the rules that determine appropriate and effective communication.

Learning language and communication skills sounds complicated, but infants are programmed to develop these skills, and their early years are the most critical to ensure this development is stimulated as the brain at this stage is developing important new connections that serve both the expressive and receptive function of language.

With your child it may seem in the early months that their only form of communication is crying, however it is important to recognize and respond to other signs of communication developing to stimulate this in a healthy way.

From birth – 6 months, your baby should begin to respond to sounds like human voices by turning their head and eyes, respond to their name, respond to changes in tone.

From 6 months – 12 months, your baby should be able to use one or more words, understand very simple instructions (with vocal or visual ques), copy sounds and gestures you make, make longer sequences of sounds that replicate normal speech but may not have meaning.

From 12 months – 18 months, your baby should have an increasing vocabulary (aprox, 5-20 words), become repetitive (one word or phrase over and over), recognize names, put two words together to form short sentences.

While these stages are important indicators to how your baby’s language can develop, every child’s learning journey is unique and their development will vary, which is why stimulation during these months is especially important.

Here are a few quick tips to help you with speech and language stimulation at home with you baby

  • Verbally respond to your baby’s noises, be expressive in both facial expression and voice.
  • Talk to your baby constantly
  • Sing a variety of songs, use expression and feeling.
  • Ensure to use proper vocabulary, baby language can encourage further delays in your child’s language development.
  • Comment on different things in the environment as you explore with your baby.
  • Animate your speech with different actions and movements
  • Read simple books
  • Speak slowly and simply