A big question for parents of toddlers always seems to be: When will I hear my baby talking?? I remember being so stinkin’ excited the first time that we heard the boys say “mama” or “dada.” It was seriously the best feeling ever! Now, at 2 years old they are saying SO many words, including “mama” (a few hundred or more times) every day.
Some of this just is what it is. Every child will naturally reach their milestones at different ages, however, we definitely have done a few things to help encourage our babies to talk. We are really fortunate to have our moms who have given us their tried and true tips. My mom raised six kids, including a set of twins, and my mother-in-law raised two of her own, but was early education teacher with a ton of experience in literacy and special education. These factors coupled with my researchers heart gave us a lot of ideas to help get each baby talking!
This blog is based on my opinion only, and is not to be used as medical advice. If you have questions, please consult your healthcare professional.
Every child is different, if you are concerned about how your baby is talking, please mention it to your pediatrician. She is the best person to help you determine if your baby needs a bit more time, or some more support. She will also have awesome ideas to help get your baby talking!
Related Post: How we weaned from the bottle, with twins
Baby Talking Milestones
In these early days your little babe should be vocal but typically won’t be saying many words. They may “coo,” giggle, screech, or make “ooo” and “aaa” sounds. Some babies will start to say “mama” and “dada” during this time. At this age they usually aren’t connecting “mama” to you as Mommy quite yet though.
During this time most babies continue to coo, ooo, and aaa, but it should start to become more conversational. They might try to repeat something you say, or answer back to you in baby talk. If they are not making many sounds by this age, it is worth bringing it up to your doctor. Usually by one they will have 1 or so words under their belts.
At our 18 month pediatrician appointment our pediatrician was looking for the boys to be saying about 15 words. These are typically common and simple words. For us a few were: yes, no, please, Mama, Dada, milk, more, banana (nana), okay, up, dog, cat, and ball. The word’s pronunciations were far from perfect but the attempts were there, and for the most part we could understand it.
At our most recent 24 month appointment the pediatrician was looking for the boys to be saying at least 50 words, and to be using 2 word phrases. They also wanted them to be aware of pronouns (I, you, me) but did not have to use them correctly. She also discussed the boys’ ability to follow simple commands and comprehend what we are saying, even when they can’t always verbally express an answer. This would be something like “Grady, can you get your shoes?” and Grady going to find his shoes.
As your child moves through year 3 of their life, their vocabulary will expand tremendously. Also, they will start to string more words together for a real sentence. Furthermore, you should be able to carry on a simple conversation at this point.
So how do you help get your baby talking?
Like I said earlier, every child will talk at a different time, but there are surely some things that you can do to help set your child up for success. These are a few things that we think really helped us!
This is first because it is probably number one thing that we have done to help the boys start to understand language. We talk to them. I know, I know, it’s mind blowing! But in all seriousness, we talk to them all the time, and have since we brought them home from the hospital.
If we were changing a diaper, or giving a bath, we would talk them through it by saying things like: “The water is warm!” or “We’re washing your stinky toes!” If I was driving somewhere I would talk to them about the weather, or what plans we had for the day. I am not a huge fan of baby talk. I think there is a time and place for the cutesy voices, but for the most part we talk to them in our real voices and use true expressions and inflections, in an effort to mimic real conversation.
When the babies starting coo’ing and making “ooo” and “aaa” noises, we would talk to them as if we were having a conversation. Even though they are not saying real words, patterning the back and forth of a typical conversation helps to encourage them to keep babbling and practicing their verbal skills. We would say things like: “Is that so?!” “Tell me about it!” and “Then what happened?”
We also try to demonstrate while talking as much as we can. When saying an adjective or a verb, can you act it out? This can be a great tool for getting extra energy out with them too. We march around the house singing “Marching, marching, we are marching” or snuggled on the couch I would rub the blanket around their arms and say “Oh this is so cozy!” This has also become very helpful with trying to connect emotions to actions. When one of them is angry and I try to catch them and say, “[child’s name], your face looks like this (make an angry face), and you threw the book, you are angry.” If they are jumping, smiling, and laughing, it’s great to positively reinforce it by saying “Your face looks like this [smile], and you are laughing! You look happy!”
This may not seem like a big deal now, but as they get older, I want them to be able to recognize how their emotions influence their actions. In order to do that, they first have to be able recognize these emotions.
I read a post that a early childhood education teacher posted the other day about how reading to your child is the single best predictor for academic achievement. Children who are read to hear so many more words than those who are not read to. Reading is also a great way for them to work on their comprehension and repetition. We always read a few books during our bedtime routine, but try to sneak in a couple more throughout the day as well.
While reading, we point to pictures that go along with the words, and try to ask them questions throughout the story to make them think about what we are saying. This is really fun with a book like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For instance, we count each of the fruits by pointing to them, and then say “Get your pointers ready!” and point to every food as we say its name.
Meal Time Chatter
There are a few things that our pediatrician has pushed during our boys lives, and family meal times is one of them. As soon as they were eating solids we made it a priority to all sit down together for dinner as many nights as we possibly could. I know that this has helped develop their language skills for a few reasons.
To begin with, when we sit down to dinner we usually have music on in the background, and have some sort of family conversation. Even before they could talk at all, they could babble and coo, and we would try to involve them. Matt’s mom mentioned that the oral stimulation of eating can help encourage them to try out other new sounds etc during mealtimes if we conversed with them, so we did!
Secondly, there is so much to repeat and talk about during meal times! You set the table and talk your way through it… “here is your fork, here is your plate.” You make their plates and share with them what you are serving for dinner while pointing to the food. Also, you can describe the tastes, textures, and actions that they are experiencing. “Look, you can dip your chicken in ketchup!” or “Careful, the oatmeal might be hot!”
End of Day Recap
Every night during our bedtime routine we talk about our days. We ask the boys, “What did you do today?” and we give them time to answer. If they don’t answer, we ask probing questions. “Who’s house did you go to this morning? What did we eat for dinner? What did we just do with soap and water in the bath tub?” and we wait for them to fill in the blanks. Even before they talked a lot, we could get them thinking and get a few words out of them. Now, with a few simple prompts, they can pretty much recap their days to us.
Matt and I are so lucky that we found each other for many reasons, but one of my favorites is that we both share a love for music. We always typically have music of some sort playing in the house, even at a low volume just for background noise. When we brought the boys home, the only thing that changed was that we added some children’s music to the mix. Music quickly became a part of daily family life and still is today. Many children’s songs offer a variety of learning opportunities through counting, naming things, the ABCs, and story telling. They also give more chances to ask questions!
This is a tad controversial and can go either way, but for us sign language seemed to help our boys communicate before they could speak. The use of language goes well beyond just the spoken word. So we got baby sign book, and did a little research, and taught the boys a few simple signs. This made life a lot easier for things like meals and it helped us start to teach some manners. Some of the signs we used were: please, thank you, more, and eat.
When they were able to start verbally saying words we were diligent in asking them to say things with their mouths, not just the sign. This is where sign language could be problematic to talking. Kids are smart! If the child isn’t encouraged to say words with their mouths, but still gets what they are asking for with their signs, it could potentially stall speaking. If you are consistent though, this shouldn’t cause a problem. In many cases actually my boys still both use the sign and say the word to this day for their favorite signs.
You can find more ideas to get your baby talking here.
But once you get your baby talking… they never stop!
It is always so exciting to hear those little voices come out with new words. And, for whatever reason, just about everything your baby says early on will melt your heart. However, try not to get too concerned if they aren’t saying as much as you think they should be. Continue to talk and read with them! Use some of the tips above, and any others that you may find, that will help your baby start to vocalize more and more. In their own time, your baby will be talking like crazy, and you will be missing the “coos” and “aaas” of the quieter days…
What tips do you have to get your baby talking? I’d love to hear them below!
Your Millennial Mama,