From around three months, the child starts babbling and by six months starts to repeat words which are easy to pronounce. By two years, most babies have a large vocabulary and can express their needs and ideas.
Here is an idea of what to expect from a child and how as a parent you can encourage their ability to communicate.
Birth to 3 months
They coo and gurgle when pleased. They try to make the same sound they hear. Encourage the baby by singing to them and by talking to them even if they does not understand the words. They will enjoy hearing and seeing people around them. Remember babies need time to babble and play quietly with themselves too.
Between 3 to 6 months
The baby is learning how people talk to each other. When the mother talks to them, they will try to look at her in the eyes. Imitate the baby babbles and they will make the same sound. You will also notice that they cry differently in different situations. As a mother, you will be able to distinguish a hunger cry from the cry when they are tired.
Between 6 months to 9 months
The baby will try to say words in doubles like “baba” or “mama” in varied sounds. They like the sound of these words and smile. They enjoy when the mother plays peek –a-boo with them. They enjoy seeing themselves in the mirror. The mother should tell them who the person is in the mirror. This will help them get used to their own name.
Between 9 and 12 months
By now the baby will understand simple words. They will stop to look at the mother if she says “no-no” or they will look for the mother if someone asks “Where is Mummy”. They will try to communicate that they want to be lifted up by lifting their own arms. Try talking to them in their language and they will try to imitate with phrases like “bah-bah-bah” or “ma-ma-ma”. They now babble with greater diversity and try to make new sound combinations. A mother should, as far as possible, try and talk to them clearly and not “baby talk” as the child will imitate what they hear.
Between 12 to 18 months
They say their first word. By now they have a vocabulary of about 10 to 20 words, including names like “Mama”, verbs like “eat” and adjectives like “cold” and can also make requests like “want toy”. They are able to use inflection and make hand gestures to complement their speech. They know how to wave “bye-bye”. They even call to get attention and shake their head for yes and no. They are able to make common consonant sounds like t, d, n, w and h.
Between 18 to 24 months
The child starts putting a two-word phrase together like “Mummy go” and also uses more complex gestures to communicate. They will continue to build their vocabulary. They can be taught to point at their nose while the mother points at her own nose. This way they can be taught their own body parts. If the mother “hides” a toy while they are watching they will find it amusing to “find” it. The mother can teach her child names of the objects when they point at what they want. If they are handing over an object to the mother she should say “thank you” so that they know that “thank you” is the right word to use if they get something. They can be taught simple songs and nursery rhymes. The child will enjoy “reading” and they can be taught to point to tell what they can see. Socialization is important at this age and they can be encouraged to talk to family and friends. They can recite nursery rhymes and earn appreciation too. They can be encouraged to pretend play.
Between two to three years
The child’s language skill will grow by leaps and bounds at this stage. They will be able to string words to say simple and complete sentences. Talking to them and asking questions that require more than just a “yes” or a “no” should be encouraged. They will be acting out imaginary scenes and will do more pretend play. They can be taught to say their first and last name, their parents’ names, and the name of people around them. They should be encouraged to describe things like what they saw in the park or their favourite story. Acting out stories and role-playing create rich opportunities for using, and learning, language. They should be taught to use pronouns correctly like “I”, “she”, “we” By now their vocabulary has around 200 to300 words and includes phrases from three to six- word sentences.
The mother should not worry too much about how her toddler pronounces his/her words. It is more important that they feel that they have been able to communicate what they wanted and that they has been understood.
However, developmental milestones can be reached by each individual child at a different pace. In case your baby is yet to start talking, please do not despair. Consult the paediatrician for an assessment of the situation. Some toddlers do not start talking till the age of three. If all other parameters are normal, be patient and keep talking to the child. One fine day your baby will join the conversation and fill your heart with awe and pride.