When do kids start talking?
When do babies start talking clearly?
What can you do to help your child learn how to talk?
That is what we are talking about, today.
From the time a child is born, there are many milestones as they grow. And with milestones, there are many firsts….
The first time they smile at you. the first time they start talk, the first time they start walking and many more.
Talking is one of the milestones, that as parents we are excited about. We want our child to talk to us. You would have noticed that I said ‘TALKNG’ is a milestone and not communication.
Talking vs communication
Going back to the school days, remember how we were taught about verbal and nonverbal communication?
Talking is just the verbal aspect.
Science says babies start responding (responding is a part of communication) while in the womb itself. Oh yes, remember those scenes from the movies where hubby dearest talks to the child in the womb? Don’t mock it, for the child can actually sense the sounds while he is still in the womb.
When do kids start talking: A general timeline
Just because they aren’t saying complete sentences doesn’t mean that they can’t talk to us. They do, in their own ways, according to their age. It could be a gesture or expression but even babies can communicate.
As they grow older, their vocabulary grows and babbles become words and slowly become sentences. These can be considered as speaking milestones.
Now let us look at how kids communicate at various ages.
- 0 to 3 months:
This is the time when the communication is mostly in the form of cries when the baby is hungry or wants to be cleaned up.
With my little one, we even observed in the subsequent months, that the tone of crying was different when she was hungry and when she wants to be cleaned up. Just different modes of letting us know what she wanted from us.
Kids will start responding to loud noises by the time they are a month or so and thus trying to communicate.
0 to 3 months is the time when babies are observant of what is happening around them, who is around them, they will slowly start recognizing your voice and some even start responding to your voice as early as 3 months. They are learning how to respond. Some babies even start cooing at this age. However always remember, each child is different and will have different milestones.
- 3 to 6 months: The first sounds
Somewhere during this time, most babies start smiling. Smiling is a way of communicating that they are happy and it’s during this time they cry when they are not happy or comfortable. For e.g., if a friend of yours has come visiting and picks up your baby, she might cry or smile just conveying how she feels.
There is a lot of babbling that must have begun by now. They start making some sounds like ‘ba’, ‘ma’ etc. which are easier on the tongue. These are the easiest of the sounds to pick up and your little one loves to listen and respond, when you talk to them, in words making similar sounds.
- 6 to 9 months: Combining sounds
At this stage your baby would have started to join two sounds. So you might hear a lot of b aba or ma ma. My little one started with ‘ka ka’. Your little one might even respond to her name and might even bring to your attention, things that she needs, by either pointing it out or making some sounds. At times, there are some sounds, that are used for specific things. For example, a ‘mam ma’ became food for my daughter and ‘pa’ became milk for her. The foundation of a language was being laid down.
- 9 to 12 months: Language basics
Your little one is getting ready to pick up a language. This will be the language that you speak at home. They will pick up and start responding, so if you say ‘ball’ they know what that is, in most cases.
I would like to reiterate; this does not define any milestone. This is just from my experience. Some babies reach these milestones a little later.
- 12 to 18 months: Language lessons
Time for a lot of language lessons. Your child has become a keen listener and will try to talk in their own little way. Sometime you will hear them saying words that you use in your day to day often and say things that rhyme with it. That is a sign that the language basics are being developed.
- 18 to 24 months: I can talk!
By now some kids would have learnt many words and they would even be using them to get things done. There would be a lot of talking that doesn’t really make much sense. This is because they are trying to imitate how adults talk. So it would just sound like it and not make sense.
It would be something that only you as parents might be able to understand and I am sure that it would be like music to your ears.
At about 2 years, they would learn to form mini sentences and here on everything you talk is being absorbed.
So is 2 years the answer to the question- ‘When do kids start talking?’
Not really, as it differs from child to child. What you have seen above is a rough timeline on how kids start talking. However, as a parent, how do you encourage your little one to talk? Is there something that you can do?
Well, of course!
That is what we will be looking at in the next segment.
10 Tips to encourage your child to talk:
You are the first teacher of your child. Babies learn to talk from you. They observe you and try to imitate you.
So parents can play a great role in when their kids start talking. Yes, the average age for babies to talk can be affected by a lot of things – including the level of efforts from the parents’ side.
Here are 10 tips that will help your child to expand his vocabulary and encourage talking.
#1. Talk, talk and talk
Yes, sometimes it’s insane.
You are talking to somebody who might or might not be interested. But the key is to respond and talk to your baby. So when they cry, it is natural for you to say ‘Don’t cry, mama is here’ or if you are in the other room and your baby wakes up, don’t you say ‘mama is coming? ’They listen to you talk and respond in their own way.
They cry, smile, coo, babble, utter words. all this is because someone is talking to them.
Talk to them when you feed them, when you bathe them or when you dress them. They love listening to you and are keen observers.
One of the most important things that will encourage your baby to talk is to respond. It comes naturally to us when they are babies. However, as they grow and when they learn to pick up words, that is the time you have to respond.
Something you are engrossed in some other work and your 1-year-old comes to you with something that she learned. Some new word and if you ignore, it might just get forgotten and will be pushed away into a corner of their minds.
If you respond and try to find what is it that they want to convey, they would have registered a new word.
#3. Mind your tone
Since you are the language guru of your child, it will help if you can talk to them in the right tone and in fact talk to people at home in the right tone. There is someone watching you all the time and they might just pick up the wrong traits.
Talk to them in a sweet tone that they understand. Patience is the key.
Sometimes things that your little one talks, doesn’t make much sense. A new song that they have heard or something that they heard someone talking. But listen to them.
If you listen, they will be motivated to speak more and thus helping them in their speech development.
Yes, reading encourages vocabulary.
Read out from board books when they are babies. They love to see colors and identify objects from their day to day.
As they grow up, start reading short stories and as you do show them the pictures and what are they called. So if you are talking about a flower, show them how a flower looks like, by pointing to the picture in the book. Or if it’s a story of a dog, show them how a dog looks like and the next time you spot one in your neighborhood, somewhere in the back of their minds they would know that it’s a dog.
If you talk to them in a multilingual way, they might start doing the same. So if you say a sentence, which is a mix of English and Hindi, at home, your child might pick that up.
For example, I grew up under the care of my grandma and because of that I am fluent in my mother tongue. However, when my sister was born, she was put in a daycare and even today she is not very fluent in our mother tongue. She picked up more of Hindi from where her day care.
Bottom line being that, you can help mould how your child picks up the language (or languages).
Like pictures talk more than words, similar audio has a lasting impression on language. If you recite their favourite nursery rhymes to them every night before bed, they will slowly start picking up that rhyme.
Audio CDs are a good way for language development.
#8. Teach them new words
Toddlers take a keen interest in stories. So every time you tell them a story, use a new word and tell them the meaning. They will be excited to use their new found vocabulary.
Instead of TV or some other gadgets, invest in some activity kit or make your own. Something that has pictures of fruits / animals etc and they will need to tell you what is it.
Play with them. Appreciate and clap for them when they are right.
#10. Never mock your child
Some children do have some speech problem. At times, they aren’t clear when they talk or they stammer. Some kids may have a lisp.
Ensure that you never mock your child for these and also take care that no one else does that. This can hurt them and hamper their speech development.
Like I said earlier, not all kids reach the language milestone at the same time. Some are late speakers.
So when should you hit the panic button?
If your child responds to things and communicates with you about all that he need and wants to show you things around, there is no worry. However, if you see issues in communication like no eye contact or no response to sounds etc, talk to your pediatrician once.
While the above timeline is just a general guideline, if you feel that your child is lagging behind by more than several weeks, then it is advisable to let your paediatrician know.
- 10 Simple and Effective Ways to Encourage Talking in Toddlers
- Autism in Babies: Symptoms, Screening and Treatment
Hope this write up answers your question about when your child would learn to talk and how you as a parent can encourage them to do so.
So when did your child start talking? What was his/her first word? Share with me in comments.