When baby says their first word is very subjective. But what is speech and language development? And how can parents help their children learn to talk?
The age at which babies say their first word is more subjective than any other developmental skill. As parents, we are delighted when our newborns start cooing at two months of age, then progress to babbling by six months of age. The gibberish mixed with one or two actual words that most children achieve by their first birthday is music to our parental ears. Generally their first word comes at about ten or eleven months. By the age of eleven months, most children can say mama or dada, plus one other word. However, in some children, this does not happen until fourteen months of age. Both are normal ranges for children’s language development. At about fifteen to eighteen months, you will notice that your child can understand a lot more words and their meanings than they can put into words. They will experience a burst of talking between two and a half and three years, and by the age of six, most children know about 800-14,000 words.
As a general rule, girls seem to develop their language skills faster than boys. But what exactly is speech and language development? Speech and language are actually comprised of several things. They are: how sounds form words, words and their actual meanings, grammar, how these words and grammar then form sentences and the verbal and nonverbal skills of communication. It is simply amazing that children begin learning all these things in the first few years of their lives. You will notice them learning sometimes by leaps and bounds, and other times more slowly as they are working on other developmental skills.
As parents, there are many things we can do to encourage language development in our children. It is important to label things, even before children know what they are. Emphasize concepts such as up and down, hot and cold, in and out, big and little. Talk to them about colors, shapes and textures. Make sure that you talk to them normally. Studies show that children whose parents spoke to them without using baby talk developed their speech more rapidly. It is okay to use words such as doggie, horsie etc., since these words are child friendly. But don’t use words such as baba, (bottle) wan (want), etc. Encourage your baby to talk, even when they are just infants. Smile and them and imitate the sounds they make. It will help baby to feel comfortable and rewarded for their efforts. The most important things to do are to talk and read to your babies and toddlers. Reading to them is invaluable in teaching the various language skills, and both you and your baby will benefit from the time spent together reading a book.
The best way to know if your child is developing normally is to make and keep your well baby checkups with your doctor or pediatrician. He or she can keep you informed about what the normal developmental expectations are for language and other developmental tasks as well. Sometimes, speech problems can develop when you child has a hearing impairment or if your child has a lot of ear infections, which prevent them from hearing all the correct sounds they need to learn for language development. Working closely with your doctor if you notice any lags in speech development can usually solve them before they become a big problem.