Are you excited to be chit-chatting with your little one? Here are some tips on how to talk to babies and encourage your toddler to talk.
What can you read in this article?
- When can you expect your child to start talking?
- Tips on how to get your baby to talk
- Your child is not talking – when to be alarmed
Here are some tips on how to raise a communicative baby.
Most parents would be thrilled with the idea of children who are able to express their needs at a very young age as this would mean less guesswork in figuring out what they want. It would also mean less frustration for everyone in the long run.
So the question begs to be asked: How do you raise a communicative baby? How do we help our babies develop their communication skills even at a young age?
Language development of babies and toddlers
Dr. Michiko Caruncho, a developmental pediatrician from the Makati Medical Center, said that your baby already starts talking long before we can figure out what they’re saying. Remember those babbling sounds they make at 6 months? That’s them trying to tell us something.
“Before 1-year-old, your baby is already trying to communicate with you. Before they really learn to talk, they are communicating to you – staring, gestures, facial expressions. Babbling is an important milestone. Finally, by 1 year old, that’s when you’ll hear your baby’s first word. Again it is a range,” she said.
Here’s a short guide on how your baby’s language or communication skills develop according to his age.
0 to 6 months
As mentioned earlier, at this age, your baby is already making cooing or babbling sounds. Sometimes, they might even be able to understand a few words and turn their head in the direction of the speaker or the sound.
As they continue to learn and understand how language works, it becomes easier for them to follow simple instructions, respond when they hear their name called, or say their first word during the next stage.
7 to 12 months
Babies at this age may already be able to understand simple words like “no.” They can start using gestures to communicate (like reaching their arms out for you to pick them up), and may have a vocabulary of about one to three words, though they may not speak their first words until after they turn 1.
13 to 18 months
After her first birthday, a toddler‘s vocabulary can expand to 10 to 20+ words. At this point, they begin mimicking sounds and repeating words (so watch what you say). They can also understand simple commands with more words like “pick up the shoe,” and can verbalize certain requests.
19 to 36 months
As your toddler approaches her second year, her vocabulary might have already expanded to 50 to 100 words. They can likely name things like body parts and familiar people. You’ll finally start to hear your child speak in short phrases or sentences.
At age 2 or 3, they can have a vocabulary of 250 words or more. The great news is this is when they start being so chatty. However, they also start asking more questions and make more requests. Welcome, super curious and demanding toddler!
Bridget Hilsberg and Brooke Dwyer are sisters, speech pathologists, and communication experts who are better known on Instagram as the Speech Sisters. They coach parents on helping their children in their communication journey and provide excellent tips on getting toddlers and babies talking.
They came up with this simple chart that parents can use to see if their child is hitting their milestone when it comes to communication.
Image from Speech Sisters on Instagram
How to talk to babies and get them to talk too
As parents, we need to remember that every child is unique and they reach their milestones differently. Some babies might not talk right away, while some are very chatty to begin with. As long as your child is responding to you and reaching his milestones, you don’t have to be alarmed.
However, there are ways for you to encourage your child to express himself through words and get into the habit of talking. Here are some simple but effective ways to get your child to talk and raise a communicative toddler.
Some say communication begins in the womb. If you had “conversations” with your unborn child, it would take less time for him to get accustomed to your voice once he is born.
Instead, he would refocus his energy towards trying to understand what you are saying. This means that his progress would be slightly faster than the infant who had not been exposed often to his parents’ voices earlier.
I recall fondly the times when my unborn son would move vigorously within me during the times when I would be trying to get some sleep.
We would often read a short story to him, and then his father would stroke my swollen belly and coax him to lay still and allow me to sleep. He would always quieten down after that.
How to talk to babies? Well, sometimes, our actions and facial expressions do the trick.
Studies have shown that “visual language” – i.e. our facial expressions, the way our mouths move and body language – is an important factor for babies to pick up speech and language.
Although most babies would not be able to talk straight until they are about 18 months old, they would certainly be able to use their facial expressions to express how they feel. To assist them in being strong in “visual language” before they can speak, you can illustrate what you say with appropriate visual cues.
For example, nod your head when you say “yes.” When you say “no,” shake your head. Babies will slowly learn to associate these simple head movements with the corresponding words – and the meaning behind them.
Try learning baby sign language
How to talk to babies? Well, if the idea sounds appealing to you, you may even choose to teach your baby to sign. Baby signing materials such as books, flashcards, and videos are readily available in bookstores and can help your child communicate their basic needs to you via hand signs.
It is important to note, however, that not all babies respond well to picking up baby sign language. Some are simply not interested, while others are keen on learning and start to use the signs fairly quickly.
Other babies will somewhat restrict themselves to learning and using only a few signs that they find “useful,” such as the signs for “milk,” “eat” and “hug”. Nonetheless, having a signing baby means less frustration for everyone as he/she can easily tell you when he/she wants something in particular!
Reading to your child every day or night before bedtime is one of the best things you can do to encourage language development. Studies show that children who were encouraged to read and who were read to as babies had a wider vocabulary compared to children who weren’t read to by age 4.
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Include their interests in the learning process.
According to Speech Sisters, following your child’s lead and interest can motivate them and help them learn to talk faster.
“Our toddler is more likely to want to communicate when they are doing something that is fun and interesting to them! So drop your own agenda (this can be challenging), follow your child’s lead during playtime, and get ready for more opportunities to maximize language learning!” they wrote.
For example, if your son is into trains, spend some time adding language into playtime with trains! Use words like “train”, “choo-choo”, “stop”, “go”, “fast”, “slow”, “track” when you’re playing together.
Be encouraging and consistent
To help your baby communicate early, you should allow her to “speak” from a young age. Creating opportunities for our little ones to respond to us will motivate them to pick up communication skills sooner.
For example, instead of just handing your child a glass of water, give her an empty glass and wait for her to ask for water. Give them opportunities to communicate their wants and needs independently.
For example, asking simple questions that require yes and no answers would prompt them to master nodding and shaking their heads.
You should also be consistent when talking to your baby so as not to confuse her.
Until they can fully understand language and its subtleties, it is best not to tease them or use oxymorons. It would confuse them greatly as to whether something is actually “nice” if you use the term in a sarcastic manner.
Remaining consistent with what you say and how you say it will help your child hone her communication skills in the long run. Also, take note that repetition is key when learning any new skill, including language.
Image from Pexels
Limit your toddler’s screen time
According to a 2018 study, increased screen time on mobile media devices was associated with language delays in 18-month-olds. Speech pathologist and child experts point out interactions with others — not staring at a screen — is best for language development. Dr. Caruncho pointed out the reason for this:
“Now we can see the negative effects of screen time on a child. For every hour they are exposed to a gadget, the more their development gets delayed. There’s a study that said that a child who uses the screen is about 6 times delayed when it comes to language compared to a child who doesn’t have any screen time,” she said in Filipino.
“Regardless if she’s watching an educational show, face-to-face interaction with the parent is still better because she learns about the tone and facial expression. Back and forth interaction is lost in watching TV or from gadgets,” she added.
The developmental pediatrician advised against the use of gadgets or screen time for children 2 years old and below.
If your best efforts to raise a communicative baby have not paid off yet, do not worry. Your child will put into practice all that you have taught him/her once he/she is ready.
Also, remember that if you are speaking at least 2 languages to your child, it would take them a little bit longer to catch up on everything due to a slight “information overload.”
Meanwhile, don’t stop talking to your little one as the more you speak to your child, the more they will learn from you. So keep on talking!
Image taken from Pexels
My child isn’t talking yet, should I be worried?
What if your child still isn’t talking despite these efforts?
“Of course, it depends on the age. Children develop sentences around three years old. Short phrases around 2 years old. When the child still can’t form phrases at that age, you can be concerned he isn’t reaching his milestones for language.” said Dr. Caruncho.
In this case, it’s best to consult a developmental pediatrician to check for language delays. Other symptoms of this may include:
- not talking by the age of 2
- having trouble following directions
- difficulty putting together a sentence
- limited vocabulary for their age
If you think your child has communication delays or is not hitting his developmental milestones, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician about it.
Additional information by Camille Eusebio