speech and language milestones

When Should My Baby Start Talking? Speech and Language Milestones in the First Year

Many parents wonder, “When should my baby start talking?” Typically developing children usually say their first words between 12 and 14 months of age. However, your baby is learning to communicate long before he ever speaks. Here are some important speech and language milestones to note as your baby grows.

Speech and Language Milestones: When They Happen and Why They are Important:

Speech and language milestones at 0-3 months:

  • Watches speaker’s mouth: Your baby is starting to understand how speech sounds are made. He may even begin to move his mouthspeech and language milestones to match some of your movements. Observation and imitation of what he observes is essential to your baby’s development of speech and language, as it allows him to experience what you model, first hand, so that he can later use those articulatory movements to communicate.
  • Discriminates between angry and friendly voices: At a very basic level, your baby is learning to understand the different messages that can be communicated.
  • Has a hunger cry and vocalizes to show pleasure: This is one of the first steps toward understanding that communication can be used to meet different needs, wants, and feelings.

Speech and language milestones at 4 to 6 months:

  • Imitates some sounds: Again, imitation is one of the primary ways that your baby learns. By watching, listening, and copying your movements, he experiences what it is like to make them. He can practice and compare his own movements and sounds to yours.
  • Uses /p/, /b/, and /m/ to babble: Your baby is gaining more control over the muscles of his mouth and starting to experiment with speech sounds. He is practicing so that he can later use these sounds in a more meaningful way: saying true words to communicate.
  • Takes turns vocalizing: Language requires taking turns most of the time: one person talks while the other listens. When your baby takes turns vocalizing, he is laying the foundation for skills he will need to play and participate in conversation later in life.

Speech and language milestones at 7-12 months:

  • Responds to noises that are not visible and searches for hidden objects: Your baby’s understanding that objects exist even when he can’t see them likely indicates that he has started forming mental representations of his world. The development of symbolic understanding is necessary to his development of language and pretend play. We use words, not physical things, to represent ideas. Before your baby can use a word to represent something, the idea of the physical thing needs to be separated from the thing itself.
  • Responds to “Come here”: Your baby’s ability to follow directions is an indication that he is developing an understanding of what you are saying. Language comprehension typically develops more quickly than expression. Your baby needs to listen, understand, and internalize the meaning of language before he can use its meaning to express himself.

Speech and language milestones at 12-14 months:

Says 1-2 words: Hooray! These words may not be perfectly articulated, but they are an indication that your baby has learned to associate a series set sounds to a particular meaning AND that he can use those sounds to communicate that meaning. For example, your baby may have already started looking for “Mama” when her name was said by someone else, however, now he can use the word “Mama” to request her, ask where she is, get her attention, etc.

What can I do to help my baby start talking?

Click here to read more about encouraging your baby’s speech and language development.