Many families wonder when do babies say their first words. For most, babies will say their first word at around 1 years old. Every child works at their own pace, so first words may differ from baby to baby. In this blog, we will explore milestones leading up to your babies first word, expectations and when to speak to your health care provider for support.
Your baby’s first year of communication skills
During your baby’s first year, you’ll be able to track nonverbal communication milestones. From the early stages of babbling, cooing, crying and smiling. These will be good indicators to show you, that your baby’s communication skills are developing to your baby's first words.
In our 0-12 month communication milestone blog, here, we discuss everything you need to know about your baby’s first year speech development. Let’s highlight the key points by month.
By 3 months, you baby should have calmness when listening to familiar voices, discovering their own voice, and a first smile.
By 6 months, your baby should follow sound with movement, start producing “ma” or “ba” and has perception to music and toys.
By 9 months, your baby will start taking turns in sounds with you, recognise their own name and start blowing raspberries.
By 12 months, your baby can start understanding instructions, start using gestures and imitating words.
So, is 6 months early to say first word?
By 6 months, your baby may start producing sounds like “ma-ma” or “da-da”. But can a 6 month old say words? Although, sound production is a milestone for your baby’s first year. Your baby doesn’t associate meaning with these sounds yet. Your baby will understand the meaning and produce words like “mama” around 1 years old, average age for first word.
What is the youngest baby to say first word?
This morning news, welcomed a family where their baby produced his first “hello” at only 8 weeks old. To note this was a once-off occurrence and is seen as an imitation of his dad, rather than association.
Every child works at their own pace and it’s important for families to recognise that no child is the same.
What counts as a word?
How many words can my child say blog, here, we understand different words that are recognised and how to encourage them. It’s important to remember, that a word counts when it’s said intentional, in context and consistent. This will show you that your child is producing a word purposefully and not by chance.
When your child starts talking, they will often use partial words. For example saying, "mo" for more, or "pup" for up. This is very common and okay!
How to encourage your baby’s first words
You set an example for your child. Talk about what they’re interested in i.e. favourite toy, and what they’re doing.
Use simple words and phrases.
For example: if your child is playing with a car, you can say “car driving”
Repetition is key. Your child needs to hear a word multiple times before they understand and use them.
Your child needs to understand language
For example: if your child points to something, you can name it. “Banana, I see banana”
To support your child’s understanding of language, you can use tone of voice and body language.
Use simple gestures and exaggerate meaning with your voice.
For example: there is a car ramp. You could use your tone of voice to demonstrate a car going up or a car going down.
Positive praise is important when your child attempts to talk.
When do babies talk and when to speak to a professional?
Every child works at their own pace. However, when your child is not meeting their speech and language milestones around specified ages, then we may recommend to speak to your health care provider for advice and guidance.
You may find our “your children’s speech development milestones by year” blog useful here. We share more about the expected milestones that 75% of children meet.
If you would like to chat to a speech and language professional for advice and guidance, we offer free 10-minute calls here.
Tanya van der Merwe
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