Baby’s Language Development

Did you know why babies don’t start really speaking until after they are 1 years old?  I am not talking babbling or the odd word here and there.  I am talking about formulating words, putting 2 words together etc.

Babies need to hear sounds and combinations of sounds 300 times a day for 12 months before they can start to make those sounds on their own.

Think about that, that is a LOT of listening.  But where are they getting all that language input from?

A study done in 2016 found that children with low levels of language stimulation within the first 3 years were more likely to suffer from language delays by the first grade and 3 times more likely to suffer from depression by the third grade. This childhood depression would then likely lead to social, emotional and academic setbacks (2016, Herman et al).

Journal Reference:Keith C. Herman, Daniel Cohen, Sarah Owens, Tracey Latimore, Wendy M. Reinke, Lori Burrell, Elizabeth McFarlane, Anne Duggan. Language Delays and Child Depressive Symptoms: the Role of Early Stimulation in the HomePrevention Science, 2016; 17 (5): 533 DOI: 10.1007/s11121-016-0647-2


Even though your baby may not be saying words, they are communicating with you all the time.  A look, a body movement, staring intently into your eyes.  A baby’s receptive language (what they understand) is about 6 months ahead of their expressive language (what they can say).

Talk to your baby all the time about anything you can think of.  What you are doing, what you can see etc.  Describe colours, sounds, shapes and how things feel. You talking is going to give your baby the language input they need to speak themselves.

If it feels uncomfortable at first, just keep trying.  Your baby needs that conversation and is building a repetoire of sounds and combinations all the time.

Listen and learn to communicate even with pre-verbal children

Communication is essential for children to grow up with good self esteem.  They need to be listened to, validated, and responded to in a respectful way.  Children follow us and do what we ask, because there is mutual respect and love. 

Learning to listen and communicate is taught right from the very beginning, long before your baby can speak.  Your baby’s receptive language (what they understand) will be about 6 months ahead of their expressive language (what they can speak) so don’t waste valuable time establishing good skills and expectations right from the start.

Language itself is quite musical.  We speak with rhythm, we have sound and silence, both of which are essential elements of music.  Just because we do it with ease, don’t think that it doesn’t have elements of rhythm with every sentence and gesture we make.

Home Activity:  Communicate Various Ways

A. Mimic Your Baby’s Cooing And Other Vocalization Sounds
Each time you engage with your baby, you’re stimulating their senses. By mimicking your baby’s communication style, you’re letting them know that they matter. Plus, you’re laying the foundation for a secure and healthy connection.

You may feel a little silly at first, but juts imitate your child.  Practise the skills of communication by waiting for them to respond, and then responding back to them in the same sounds they are making.  Connection starts with listening and that starts even when they are pre-verbal. 

B.  Use nonverbal communication to bond with your baby

Use a variety of nonverbal cues such as eye contact, a touch, smile, and move rhythmically such as using rocking or swaying. These are all effective ways of conveying love, warmth, and acceptance to your baby.

If you are stressed, angry, or frustrated, your baby will often respond by becoming distressed. Talking in a gentle, soothing voice, even if the words are not yet understood, can help your baby to feel reassured, loved, and secure.

C.  Follow your baby’s lead
As your child matures from a newborn to a more interactive baby by the age of 6 months, he’ll become a master at showing you when something makes him content or upset. His face lights up in a heart-melting smile when you enter the room, or he wails when someone takes away his favourite toy. And you’ve probably noticed that he flips between smiling and crying faster than you can pop a pacifier in his mouth.

If it seems your baby spends more time wailing than giggling, that’s because babies actually experience distress earlier than happiness. Crying and distressed facial expressions are there for a reason, explains Eliot. They serve as an SOS to motivate the caregiver to fix whatever’s wrong.  A secure attachment is built upon sensitive and responsive care giving. Observe and pay attention to your baby’s subtle cues for attention, exploration, and comfort. This helps your baby to feel understood and valued.

While it is easy to identify fear or sadness in your baby, one thing you may not know is that anger in your baby is often a sign of excessive distress.  Holinger, a neuroscientist explains:   “If there’s a loud noise or bright light, the child will show signs of distress. If that noise or light continues to increase, the feeling turns to anger.”

When a baby is young, they really aren’t feeling the emotions of happy or unhappy – they are either content or not content depending on something in their immediate environment.  Once your baby hits 6 – 8 months of age, then the emotional centres of the brain are more developed and they are starting to feel (and show more expressively on their face) emotion.

D.  Use Different Voices
When communicating with your little one, use a range of voices.  Change you voice in the following ways will help your baby to process sound more effectively which aids language development.

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