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Your baby was born with a pre-disposition to learn language. They start by practicing the sounds that make up words with babbles and gurgles, and then concentrate on what words mean, finally they go on to structure words into grammatical sentences.


Story Book

Right from birth, a baby turns his face to his mother when she speaks. In the early weeks she will move to the rhythm of her mother’s speech. It may be that she also did this even when she was still in the womb. This progresses through the next few months as she practices using her ’tools’ of language. She will go through all the noises that are found in every language around the world – in some languages those clicks and raspberry noises mean something!

Her first real words are likely to be actions rather than speech – things like lifting her arms when she wants to be picked up – you will recognise and understand this communication.

Communication continues with a mixture of simple first words and these ’action’ signals. Once she has picked up her first word, she will gain vocabulary at a very rapid rate and by her second birthday she may even be constructing two-word sentences, although she is not yet using things like prepositions or conjunctions. These additional words arrive between 2 ½ and 3 years. By the time she is six she will probably have a vocabulary of around 10,000 words.

Your role in helping your child to develop language shouldn’t be underestimated. Responding from day one to your baby’s language and communication is hugely important in helping her to develop her speech – studies have shown that a child whose parents are unresponsive to their efforts of communication will actually develop more slowly.

What can you do to help

* Talk, talk and talk!
* Talk face to face, get down to her level and look her in the eye when you talk to her
* Look at the object you are talking about to help her connect the name with the object
* Use simple sentences
* Do answer her when she says something and let her know you understood her.
* Don’t be afraid to repeat back to her what you know she was trying to say in an affirming way. Don’t however ’correct’ her pronunciation or point out her mistakes.
* Tell her she is clever and that you love to talk to her

Toy Box Tips

* Toys that have buttons to press that trigger speech or talking sounds are good. Try products from the Laugh and Learn range.
* Cuddly toys which you can play games with and pretend they are speaking to her.
* Books, especially word books with pictures of familiar objects.
* Sing songs, especially action songs.
* Give her lots of opportunity to spend time with other children.
* Go on plenty of outings you can talk about.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education