When Do Babies Start Talking? What to Do and How to Help

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When do babies start talking guide - Baby journey

Your baby’s first coos may be the sweetest sound you ever heard. As they slowly start making more noises, including consonant sounds and pseudo-words, you may wonder when they will say those precious first words. Many parents find themselves wondering when do babies start talking not long after their little one starts babbling. 

We will fill you in on all you need to know about the baby talking timeline, baby words, and how you can encourage your little orator, from babbling to banter! 

CHAPTER 1:

When Do Babies Start Talking?
Understanding Baby Talking Milestones

Babies can coo and sometimes even repeat vowel sounds as young as two months. And all parents know that they can cry from birth. But when should babies start talking, like actually talking? We answer it with a simple timeline below.

Source: Giphy

What Age Do Babies Start Talking? A Timeline

Like everything related to infants, baby’s start talking at different rates. While you may be sure that your baby is about to say mama or dada, they can happily make the “M” or “D” consonant sounds for weeks without forming them into words. 

Most babies can understand words long before they can say them on their own. This is a key part of language and talking. 

When will your little one be ready to begin infant talking? Most children begin talking around twelve to eighteen months, which is a pretty large age gap. But there is much more that goes into child talk than just an age. Here’s a timeline to help you understand your little one’s talking milestones:

Birth.

The first real example of baby talk, or when your child communicates with you, is actually non-verbal. Your baby crying, squirming, putting their hands in their mouth, or grimacing counts as baby talk. They are trying to convey hunger, fear, sleepiness, frustration, and other things to you. 

2 months.

From non-verbal communication, babies move to verbal expression in the way of cooing. Cooing is a series of noises that usually have a rhythm or sing-song pattern. These repetitive sounds are typically happy and occur when your baby is relaxed and in a good mood.

Cooing is generally the first sign of your little one trying to communicate with you verbally. Most babies begin cooing around 3 months of age. 

4-6 months.

Next, your child will probably begin babbling. Babbling is what most parents consider the true beginning of baby language. Most babbling is consonant sounds. When your baby talks by babbling you may hear speech sounds like “ba-ba”, “da-da”, or “ma-ma”.

It is important to know that your little one’s language isn’t just developing verbally, but also in an auditory sense as they hear you talk and try to mimic these sounds. 

6 months.

At six months babies can understand their name, know your mood by the tone of your voice, and recognize non-native language vs native language. So, when do babies say their first word? Is this it?! Not exactly. 

Most babbling sounds are random, not proper words, and your child probably won’t know what they’re saying. Still, if you’re concerned with how to teach a baby to talk, repeating these sounds back to them and having a “conversation” is good practice. 

9 months.

When your little one turns nine months, they are really moving towards talking. They may even have a solid understanding of everyday real words, like “no”. You may begin to notice them using different tones, consonants, and producing different sounds. You are well on your way to baby’s first words! 

Consonant sounds are fundamental to language development in babies. - When do babies start talking - Baby Journey blog
Consonant sounds are fundamental to language.

12-18 months.

Months twelve to eighteen are the average age babies start talking. During this age range here is what is considered baby talk. Words like mama, dada, and possibly even baba. They can put sounds together to form words, even if the word is missing a few sounds or letters. And your little one will know what they’re saying when they speak. 

When do babies understand words? By now they’ll understand a host of words and can follow simple instructions, like “get a book”. Parents pondering when do babies talk will be excited to learn that these first few words are considered babies speaking; even if they are not talking clearly or in full sentences.

When do babies start talking clearly? For most, that is during toddlerhood. 

When Do Toddlers Start Talking?

At eighteen months and beyond, you’ll probably have a talking baby. However, baby talk and what adults considered talking are two different things. When do children start talking in multi-word sentences? 

18 months.

At eighteen months your child will probably have a rotation of words, such as “daw” for dog or “kiki” for kitty. It is normal for them to not pronounce every letter in the word. They also know a bunch of words and can point to objects or go and retrieve them if you name them; especially body parts. This is also a good time to get more educational toys or materials to support this developmental stage.

2-3 years.

By two years of age, you should start seeing your child string words together. For example, they may say “mama milk” or “up please”, even if they don’t pronounce these words clearly.

At three you will start to see major changes in your child’s language. They are talking in sentences, have a booming vocabulary, and can understand abstract language concepts. They know things like “mine” and “under” instead of solely object names. 

From here, your little one’s vocabulary and language skills will only grow and expand. 

CHAPTER 2:

Deciphering Your Baby’s Speech
and Language Milestones

Source: Giphy

We’ve already covered, when do kids start talking, but it was a lot of information! If you’re looking for baby speech basics and what to watch out for in terms of language milestones [1], we’ve got you covered. 

There are quite a few milestones associated with speech and language, around twenty-seven to be exact. [2] Here is a breakdown by age and stage. 

Read on to find out!

Non-Verbal Milestones 

  • Crying (0-2 months)
  • Sucking noises (0-3 months)
  • Comfort sounds in combination with body movements (0-3 months)
  • Rhythmic crying (2-5 months) 

Cooing

  • Coos 
  • Oohs 
  • Aahs
  • Body movements and vocal sounds are now independent of one another (2-7 months) 

Baby Babble

  • Babbling, making vocalization sounds (4-6 months)
  • First words in the form of repetitive syllables like “baba” “mama” or “dada” (5-9 months)
  • Vocalizing wants and needs (7-9 months)
  • Using inflection when babbling (7-12 months)
  • Single consonant babbling like “b,b,b” or “gaga” (8-12 months)

Baby Talk 

  • Starts saying pieces of words or distorted words, like “daw” for “dog” (12-17 months)
  • Expanding vocabulary (12-21 months)
  • Jargon begins (12-18 months) 
  • Talking development may slow when your child is focusing on learning to walk (11-15 months) 

Toddler Speak

  • Combines syllabus to make different sound combinations (17-19 months)
  • Copies sounds they hear (10-24 months)
  • Uses words to convey needs/wants 65% of the time (22-24 months)
  • Masters jargon with one to two word phrases (18-22 months)
  • Begins to clearly pronounce some words (28-32 months)
  • Combines familiar words to make simple sentences (29-31 months)

A Talking Child

  • Repeating longer, more complicated words they hear (29-36 months)
  • Talking regularly can carry on a conversation with adults, vocabulary rapidly expanding (35-48 months) 

CHAPTER 3:

Can You Teach Your Child to Talk?
Ways to Help In Your Child’s
Speech Development

While you may not be able to teach your child to talk per se, you can certainly help their talking and language develop. You can start this from birth.

Parent intervention can be very effective at helping your little one’s speech and language progress, but how do you help your kids on this? We discuss more in this section.

Source: Tenor

How to Help Baby Talk 

Here are some ways you can take note of as a parent to assist in your children’s development when it comes to speech.

Take Cues From Your Baby

Follow your child’s lead, even when they’re young and you can’t understand what they’re saying. Teaching my baby to talk started when they were only a few days old. Watch them closely to catch non-verbal cues, then respond accordingly in a pleasant way by smiling and making eye contact. For example, if you pass by your little one and they stretch their arms up, they likely want you to pick them up. Picking them up will encourage non-verbal language. 

Listen to the sounds they make, especially their coos and comfort noises. You can repeat these sounds back to them to have a sort of pseudo-conversation. Try to match their inflection and pitch and be sure to pause giving them time to “respond”. 

As your child grows and begins using words, make sure to show them that conversation is a two-way street. Give them opportunities to show you things, talk, or even use body language before responding. 

Talk, Talk, Talk

You talking to your child, even when they’re only a few months old, is vital to their language developmental milestones. If your child is an infant, try narrating your daily activities to them. Tell you what you are doing and point to things as you name them before baby starts talking. 

When they start to interact with you, either by making gestures or sounds, elaborate. If they point to a book you can say “Do you want to read the book?”. As they practice talking and trying to communicate with you, be sure to encourage them and praise them for any and all attempts.  

Read To Them 

It has been found that babies greatly benefit from adults reading to them. [3] Hearing their mom or dad talk encourages language development, puts names to objects, and introduces concepts in a fun manner. It is also a great way to build their vocabulary.

One study [4] found that children whose parents did not read or talk to them often knew fewer words at age 2 than children whose parents regularly read and conversated with them. 

For young baby’s board books are a wonderful option. Nursery rhymes are another choice, as their sing-song text is great for both auditory and speech development. As your child gets older they may enjoy picture books, and eventually simple chapter books. Here are some of my favorite recommendations:

Even if you think the book may be a tiny bit too difficult of a reading level, these texts can help expand your toddler’s vocabulary. Your little one is never too young or too old to be read to! 

Reading to baby - When do babies start talking - Baby Journey blog
You can read to your baby from birth.

In the beginning, your baby won’t understand a lot of what you are doing or saying. But if you have patience and keep encouraging their language development daily, you should see them meeting speech milestones regularly. 

If you’re looking for a great resource, we love the book Small Talk: How to Develop Your Child’s Language Skills from Birth to Age Four by Nicola Lathey. It takes a deep dive into effective strategies and practices parents can use to boost their child’s speech and language. It has a variety of tools and methods for parents of children ages birth to four. 

CHAPTER 4:

When Baby Talk and Speech Delay
Becomes A Concern

Source: Giphy

By now you probably know that baby talk age and the time your little one says their first words can vary greatly from child to child. But when should you be concerned? 

Recognizing Delays in Speech and Language

Speech and language delays are actually two different types of concerns. A speech delay is when your child talks but is hard to understand. They may often mispronounce words or have trouble forming them orally. A language delay is when the child can clearly talk and say words but have difficulty putting them together to form sentences or thoughts. 

You can recognize delays earlier than you may think. If your child doesn’t gesture to objects by one year of age, or only gestures and doesn’t vocalize by a year and a half, these could be reasons to see your doctor for evaluation. Additionally, children who cannot imitate words and sounds or who only imitate words and sounds at two may have a speech and language delay. 

Commonly, parents reach out for assistance when their child is difficult to understand. This can be a symptom of a delay, but not always. Some children progress slower than others. If your child talks very little, your child may be a late talker or a kiddo who is between 18 and 30 months and understands well but doesn’t vocalize or use spoken vocabulary much. 

Experts advise that at two years old, parents should be able to understand about half of what their child says; and seventy-five percent of what they say at three years. At four, the child should be relatively easy to understand, even by those who don’t know them. 

Reasons for Delays

What causes children to not meet these guidelines? Well, pacifiers are not known to lead to a talking delay. Whatsmore, an issue like late talking doesn’t always mean something like they have autism spectrum disorder or Einstein Syndrome, where the child is gifted when it comes to analytic thinking but has a delay in speaking. 

There can be many different reasons for your child’s slow speech and language development. Sometimes, hearing issues can lead to a delay. Chronic ear infections may contribute to your child having difficulty hearing sounds, which in turn affects their speech.

Occasionally a delay may be caused by a physical issue, such as a tongue-tie, or an oral impairment such as a palette deformity.  Intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities can play a role as well. Finally, psychosocial issues, such as neglect, can affect a child’s speech. 

Interestingly enough, boys usually talk later than girls. [5] And, being born male can be considered a risk factor for language delays. [6] But, just because your child is a boy or is experienced a language delay does not necessarily mean there is anything serious going on. They could just be a late talker.

If you are ever worried that your little one isn’t gesturing, vocalizing, or is doing these things improperly, don’t hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician for evaluation. Most communities have a variety of support systems and resources for children with speech and language delays, such as speech therapists and a speech language pathologist. 

Are Late Talkers More Intelligent?

If your baby is slow to mumble their first words or your kiddo isn’t yet saying two-word sentences, they might be a late talker. But does this mean they could be more intelligent?

Not always. This idea was popularized when the idea got out that Albert Einstein was a late talker, not being able to speak more complicated sentences and even full sentences before age five. However, there isn’t enough research to say that every late talker will invariably be smarter. [7]

While you don’t need to worry about every improperly pronounced word, early intervention can be a big help. Speech language pathologists can evaluate your child’s language development as soon as three months, before your baby starts talking even.

Happy Watching Your Child Grow,
From Babbling Baby to Talking Toddler!

Baby speech and language development can be complicated, and sometimes concerning for parents. There are so many factors that go into your baby talking, like oral strength from eating and drinking, milestones such as walking, potty training, and sleep training, that can put speech on hold for a bit, and of course, serious issues like delays. 

Hopefully, this article has provided you with knowledge of what to look for as your baby progresses, how you can help them talk, and when to seek out a doctor’s advice.

If you are left with any additional questions be sure to leave them in the comments below! 

Source: Tenor

The Author

Megan Moore

Megan is a mom of three who enjoys researching and writing during nap times and whenever she gets a free moment! Aside from producing content as an author on Baby Journey, she also loves running and gardening.

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