Already, the newborn baby can interact with us by using their voice, eye contact, and body language. Crying indicates that something is wrong, and when babies look at us, they may want to make contact. We should be attentive and interpret the signals from the children.
At around two months of age, babies often start making more sounds, such as simple vowel sounds like “aaa” and “ooo”. As they grow, they begin to try different sounds and imitate what they hear. In this way, children collect building blocks they need to start speaking. Many speech sounds and the melody of language are learned early on.
Listen and observe carefully to how the child sounds and moves. This way, you can understand how the child is feeling and what they want.
Children need to hear a lot of spoken language and often enjoy listening when we talk to them. Speak cheerfully and softly, and smile at the same time. Eventually, children may start smiling in response.
If you pay attention, you can also see how the child responds in other ways, such as moving their body or using different sounds when you talk and play together. It’s the beginning of a conversation, and both enjoyable and developmental for the children.
Talk to the child and tell them about what you see and experience. Even if the child doesn’t understand everything, it is still interesting and developmental. The child is also encouraged to try different sounds themselves.
The child tries more and more sounds, and their babbling becomes increasingly varied. Often, the first consonants appear at the beginning of this period, and towards the end, children usually start with syllable babbling, like “da-da-da.” The child also experiments with different vocal tones and volumes.
The child listens more attentively when you speak, and eventually, they begin to understand more and more common recurring words. The child may start to react to their name or words like “no,” for example. However, the child also perceives differences in the tone of your voice, whether you sound angry or happy, for instance.
Children at this age also often start to notice more about what others are looking at and doing. If you look at something, the child may, for example, turn around and look in the same direction.
Tips! Take the opportunity to verbalize what you and the child are looking at. Also, listen to the child and respond when they babble or try to communicate! It’s both exciting and developmental for the child, and when you take turns – listening and talking – the child practices the foundation of regular conversations, turn-taking.
Children’s own communication, through body language, facial expressions, and sounds, becomes gradually clearer. They use their voice more variably and can often, in their own way, indicate if they are happy, hungry, or tired. However, children still rely on us to interpret and try to understand the meaning behind their expressions.
Tips! Feel free to be overtly clear when you talk to your child. Use facial expressions, gestures, or signs, and repeat words. Overt clarity makes it easier for the child to understand, and you also show the child how they can use their body to make themselves understood.
Now, children often begin to use more gestures to communicate, such as pointing, showing, and waving. However, the exact timing of when this occurs can vary. Some children start pointing at 8 months old, while others do so at 16 months. Eventually, many children combine gestures and sounds to make themselves understood, so they may both point and make sounds at the same time.
Children understand many words before they start speaking themselves, and they can demonstrate this by, for example, turning towards familiar objects when you say their name. Eventually, the child may also start following simple commands, such as taking or patting something.
Towards the end of this period, the first real words typically emerge, such as “mommy,” “daddy,” or “look,” for example.
It’s not always easy to distinguish between babbling and real words. Even if you’re not sure, you can interpret what the child says as words and confirm and repeat that word, thus supporting the child’s development. By responding and showing interest, you encourage the child to speak more and try again.
Tips! Repeat what the child says and respond to the child’s sounds, movements, and gazes as if they mean more than they do. For example, if the child is interested in a lamp and says “ma,” you can say, “Yes, lamp! What a nice lamp.”
At this age, it also becomes easier to look at interesting things together. It’s important for the child to understand how everything works and to learn more words along the way. If you talk and use gestures while looking at something, the child also gets the opportunity to imitate both movements and sounds.
It’s still not always easy to understand what the child means, but your efforts to understand contribute to the development of your communication. In many situations throughout the day, the child can practice communicating and showing what they want, such as at the dinner table or during playtime.
Tips! Read, point, and look at simple books together. Label what things in the book are called and perhaps how they sound. Encourage the child to join in and imitate sounds or make movements and gestures, and point to things.
Around one year old, children usually start saying their first words, but the exact timing can vary greatly. Some children say their first words at 10 months old, while others may be closer to 18 months.
Sometimes it can also be difficult to determine whether something is a real word or just babbling, but even if you’re unsure, it’s always good to try to interpret and respond to it as if it were a word. It supports the child’s development.
The first words are often names for things that are significant to the child, such as “mommy” and “daddy.” In the beginning, words can mean more or less than what they do for adults. “Car” can be used for all kinds of vehicles, while “teddy bear” is only used for a specific teddy bear. Many children have their own words for different things, and word pronunciations can be greatly simplified, such as “bottle” becoming “baba.”
A single word can also represent a whole sentence. For example, “den” can mean “give me that.”
Tips! Make it a habit to pick up on what the child is saying and expand on it a bit. If the child says “mu,” you can say, “Yes, moo, there’s a cow. What a big cow!” This way, you continuously support the child in building on their language.
Even after the first words have emerged, children still communicate a lot through gestures and pointing. The child can become frustrated and angry when they can’t make themselves understood, but by listening and showing that you’re trying to understand, and using all the clues to figure out what the child wants, communication develops. When you think you’ve figured out what the child means, put it into words, as you serve as a model for how the child can develop their language.
Tips! Make it a habit to tell your child what you’re doing and what you’re going to do throughout the day: “Now that you’ve had a bath, we’ll put on a diaper.” and “We’ll take the green pants.” Let the child participate in everyday activities as well, such as fetching things.
Around one and a half years old, there is often a period where vocabulary grows rapidly – sometimes referred to as a “vocabulary explosion.” The exact timing of this period and how quickly the vocabulary grows varies from child to child. It means that a child at around two years old can say anywhere from about fifty to several hundred words.
At two years old, many children also start combining words into short sentences, usually two-word phrases like “look there” or “doggy sleep.” It starts to become a bit easier for the child to express what they want and need. The word “no” can become particularly interesting and important, as well as words like “mine” and “my.”
The child understands more and soon catches on to most of what you talk about in everyday life. They may start fetching things you ask for, such as a toy, or point out body parts if you ask, for example, “Where is the mouth?”
By actively listening to and talking a lot with the child, you not only stimulate their language but also their overall development. For example, you can tell them about what you see that the child is interested in and everything you experience together. Make use of children’s books, songs, and rhymes, and encourage the child to participate by filling in with words, gestures, and sounds.