The first year of a child’s life is full of wonderful firsts: The first nerve wracking car ride home after the hospital, the first time he or she smiles, the first time a child actually sleeps through the night (yay) and, of course, the first time you hear your child’s voice. Your child will begin to communicate with you and express himself long before you even hear his first word.
Here are ways parents can help stimulate language development during the first year of life:
- Talk, talk, talk! From the moment your child is born, talk to him. Narrate the world around him. Describe everything you are doing. For example “we are going to take a bath” and “Now we are going to take a walk outside.” I always tell parents to imagine themselves as the middle person between the world and the child. Imagine being the soundtrack to his little life.
- Make imitation a natural everyday life. Imitate animal sounds and environmental sounds. “Look at the cow, it says moo.” When using imitation, respond to your child. Look at him when he makes noises. Imitate the sounds he makes. Laugh when he laughs. Sing songs and play music. A favorite of mine is “Old McDonald had a farm.” With these techniques, our little ones learn about the world as well as the rhythm of language. Also, teach your baby to imitate actions, such as “peek-a-boo,” clapping, blowing kisses, and waving good-bye. This teaches children how to take turns, which will helps teach how to take turns when speaking.
- Read, read and read some more! It is never too early to read to your baby. You can start with simple board books during the first year of life. This is a great way to incorporate reading into an everyday part of your child’s life and help him to develop a love of books at an early age. One good predictor of future reading success is the amount of time parents spend reading with a child.
- Avoid electronic use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years of age avoid all digital media exposure. This includes both television and tablet use. There is little evidence that exposure to media is beneficial for children under two years of age. Research has revealed that excessive screen time results in poor sleep habits, lower cognitive abilities, decreased attention span as well as delayed language and motor skills. The more time children spend watching television the less time interact and respond with others, which are the two catalysts children need for language development. We truly learn the skills of language development through face to face human interaction.
- Every child is different. Children develop at their own pace. If you are concerned with your child’s speech and language development, discuss it with your pediatrician.
Enjoy the time you have with your little one. As a mom to a toddler myself, I know it is hard at times to “live” in the moment. As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Have fun talking to your little one and helping him or her explore their new world.
Speech and Language Skills from Birth to a Year of Age
Adapted from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
|Hearing and Understanding
|Birth to 3 Months
- Startles at loud sounds.
- Quiets or smiles when you talk.
- Seems to recognize your voice. Quiets if crying.
|Birth to 3 Months
- Makes cooing sounds.
- Cries change for different needs.
- Smiles at people.
|4 to 6 Months
- Moves her eyes in the direction of sounds.
- Responds to changes in your tone of voice.
- Notices toys that make sounds.
- Pays attention to music.
|4 to 6 Months
- Coos and babbles when playing alone or with you.
- Makes speech-like babbling sounds, like “pa, ba, and mi.”
- Giggles and laughs.
- Makes sounds when happy or upset
|7 Months to 1 Year
- Turns and looks in the direction of sounds.
- Looks when you point.
- Turns when you call her name.
- Understands words for common items and people—words like cup, truck, juice, and daddy.
- Starts to respond to simple words and phrases, like “No,” “Come here,” and “Want more?”
- Plays games with you, like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.
- Listens to songs and stories for a short time.
|7 Months– to 1 Year
- Babbles long strings of sounds, such as “mimi” “up up” and “babababa.”
- Uses sounds and gestures to get and keep attention.
- Points to objects and shows them to others.
- Uses gestures like waving bye, reaching for “up,” and shaking his head no.
- Imitates different speech sounds.
- Says one or two words, such as “hi” “dog” “dada” “mama” or “uh-oh.” This will happen around his first birthday, but sounds may not be clear.