Developmental milestones are classified as checkpoints for children as they grow. Milestones can be tracked through your child’s movements, behaviour, learning, play and communication. The CDC explains developmental milestones to be what most children, 75% or more, can do at a certain age.
When does communication development start?
Communication starts from the moment your child is born. Week by week, month by month, your child can develop. From nonverbal communication milestones to first words. In the early stages the child may babble and smile, coo and cry, which are good indications that their communication skills are developing.
Throughout the first year, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to closely note and monitor signs for ‘typical’ development. Some more noticeable than others, let’s discuss the first 12 months of your baby’s life.
Birth to 3 month milestones
It’s a new world. So many senses; sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
Sound: during the first few months, the child’s parents and caregivers should closely monitor if their baby is reacting to loud sounds. If your baby doesn’t show a sign of reaction, contact your paediatrician. They may refer your child for a hearing assessment. Your child will also start discovering their voice. Encourage your baby’s vocals through play. When they make sounds, talk and sing to them in response. You’ll also start noticing your baby’s crying will sound differently for different needs being expressed i.e. tired, hungry, etc.
Smiling: At this age, your baby’s first smile should occur. Something small, but a big milestone and a heart-warming moment for parents/caregivers. This can be an indicator that their communication skills are developing.
Familiarity: a foundational skill for language development. When your baby hears your voice or a familiar one, they will start to quiet down and feel a sense of calmness.
3 to 6 month milestones
Listening & Sounds: when you speak to your baby, they should follow the sound and demonstrate awareness of their environment by; turning their head to follow the sound, making eye contact with the person speaking, quiets down or smiles in response to the sounds/words you are producing and starts babbling to you, as they learn about conversations and play around with their voice, Your baby will start to produce sounds such as “ba” or “ma”
Laughing: an exciting milestone for parents/caregivers, and sweetness to your ears. Typically this will occur as a response to a voice they hear that is silly to them, or physical touch such as a tickle.
Attention to environment: your baby will start to touch toys with their mouth and show interest to toys with sound. Similarly, your baby should start being more perceptive to music, which is indicative to you as a parent that comprehension skills are developing.
6 to 9 month milestones
Producing and reduplication.
Listening: your baby will start taking turns in making sounds with you, as well as repeating sounds. Increasing from “ma” to “mama” or “mamama”. These sounds most often don’t have meaning associate to it yet. Association starts later on in their first year.
Sounds: your baby may start making squealing noises, as well as starting to recognise the sound of their own name.
Movement of Articulators: blow “raspberries” i.e. sticking their tongue out and blow out.
9 to 12 month milestones
Reaching their first birthday.
Sounds: you’ll start hearing many different sounds with repetition of sounds such as “mama” and “dada” will start taking meaning. They can also start to understand the imitation of words and imitating made up words with a consistent meaning e.g. “yumyum” for food.
Movement: you baby may start communicating through gestures i.e. pointing and responding to what you are communicating to them.
Listening: when you start saying no, your baby will start acknowledging what it means and understand instructions such as “come here”. As a parent/caregiver you can start observing their receptive language (understanding of language).
It is important to note that, all children work at their own pace. Exact timing for developmental milestones may vary. As long as your little one keeps progressing forward, that’s all that matters.
Your baby may show signs of frustrations if they are not able to communicate their wants or needs. As a parent/caregiver, you know your child the best. If your child appears to not be meeting these milestones within the first year, you may find it useful to speak to your healthcare provider.