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Learning About Speech and Language Milestones in Children From Birth to Age 1

What are speech and language milestones?

Speech and language are the skills we use to communicate with others. They relate to a child's ability to understand words and sounds and to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning.

Speech and language milestones help tell whether a child is gaining these skills as expected. But keep in mind that the age at which children reach milestones is different for each child. Some children learn quickly. Others develop more slowly.

What can you expect?

Here are some of the things babies may do at each age milestone.

Less than 1 month old

  • Listen to the rhythm and melodies of speech.
  • Pick out their mother's voice.
  • Learn the rhythm of two languages when both are spoken at home.
  • Use crying that sounds the same no matter what they need.

Ages 1 to 4 months

  • Prefer "baby talk" and voices with a high pitch.
  • Blink or widen eyes when noticing sounds.
  • Become startled or turn toward a sound to look for its source.
  • Become quiet to their mother's voice.
  • Make cooing sounds, such as "ah-ah-ah" or "ooh-ooh-ooh." Babies may also make cooing sounds back to someone who is talking to them.

Ages 5 to 6 months

  • Recognize their own name.
  • Make sounds like "goo" and blow bubbles at the same time.
  • Start to babble or repeat sounds, such as "ma-ma-ma" or "bah-bah-bah" to get attention or express feeling.
  • Vary their cries to signal specific needs.

Ages 7 to 9 months

  • Hear words as distinct sounds.
  • Recognize the meaning of some facial expressions and tone of voice, such as when a parent says "No!"
  • Repeat sounds that they hear.
  • Mimic the rhythm of the way others talk.
  • May say words like "mama" and "dada."
  • May wave "bye-bye" when asked.

Ages 10 to 12 months

  • Start to follow simple commands like "Give me the toy."
  • Usually understand "mama" and "dada."
  • Correctly refer to each parent as "mama" or "dada."
  • Point to things they want or need.
  • Say a few single words besides "mama" or "dada."

How can you encourage speech and language learning?

The best way to help your child learn is to talk and read to your child. Doing these things will help your child learn language skills faster. Try these ideas:

  • Share board books with your baby. Choose books with bright colours and pictures of familiar objects. Point to the pictures and say what they are. As your baby learns a few words, you can ask, "What's that?"
  • Reading aloud is good, even if you don't think your baby understands it.
  • Talk to your infant using a mix of "baby talk" and regular conversation.
  • Talk with your baby while you do your normal activities.
  • Sing to your baby, and play music.
  • Keep telling your baby the names, shapes, and colours of things around him or her.

What can you do if your child has trouble?

Mild and temporary speech delays can happen. And some children learn to communicate faster than others do.

Your doctor will check your child's speech and language skills during routine checkups. But call your doctor, nurse call line, or a speech-language pathologist anytime you have concerns about how your child is developing. A child can overcome many speech and language problems with treatment, especially when you catch problems early.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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