Once you begin hearing cooing, gurgling, or babbling, you know what’s next: talking. Often when a sitter works with new parents, this is when they begin to wonder, “when do babies start talking?”

Of course from birth, you and the baby are already finding plenty of ways to communicate. Some of these are physical—like cuddles. Some can be emotive, like smiles and laughs. But talking? Now that’s a big one. Sharing a language with a child and watching their vocabulary expand can be an exciting time for the family and you. And it can mean an end to the moments when you’re wondering if that cry was a hungry cry or an I-want-attention cry.

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There are many milestones within the first few years of a child’s life. The journey to talking has even more milestones: the moments when babies start understanding words, when babies say their first word, and when babies start talking clearly. Like many other milestones, there’s a broad range for when speaking begins. Some babies start as early as 9 or 10 months. Others may not utter a sound until 18 months.

The Typical Talking Timeline

0-3 Months

At this point, what you’re looking for is the baby responding to you and your voice. They’ll likely also respond to your facial expressions. They may begin to coo and gurgle as well though that is more common later.

4-6 Months

At this point, most babies are babbling. You may hear some constant sounds from them as they gain more control over their tongue and throat. There is increased development in nonverbal communication here too. Your little one is starting to figure out all the ways they can get your attention, but not all of them pleasant (think dropping things or yelling).

7-12 Months

By now a baby will begin to understand more of your language even if they can’t fully articulate. You may hear more syllable sounds like “ma” or “da” or “buh.” The child is getting closer and closer to their first word! Your job is to stay interactive and encourage their babbling so that they understand you’re trying to communicate back to them.
If a baby starts saying full words, don’t expect their vocabulary to be gigantic. It’s still going to take time to connect what they hear and understand to what they can verbalize. Don’t forget to record for the parents!

13-18 Months

This phase marks more intentional usage of words. Essentially, they’re reinforcing the few words they have. They may gain some vocabulary, but this varies from child to child.

Often during this period, it may feel like language skills are plateauing with just some more words gained. This could be because a baby is developing a lot of other skills like walking and more motor development. Don’t worry, a baby can only learn so much at once!

18-24 Months & After

By two years, the child will likely be able to say simple sentences and have a broader vocabulary. Beyond two years, you’ll see massive gains in vocabulary. It will feel like they are picking up new words every day!

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How To Encourage Your Baby To Talk

There are many actions you can take from birth to toddlerhood to help a little one start chatting. Many of them are as easy as incorporating some changes to your routine and staying engaged with the child.

  • Get verbal. Read, talk, and sing to them. You can narrate your actions and theirs. Describe objects for them. Make their world full of language.
  • Use praise. Like many other milestones, a little encouragement from you goes a long way. Your cheering is positive reinforcement.
  • Avoid the screen. Language learning requires reciprocation and interaction. You can’t get that from the screen.

Here are even more ideas to help get a baby talking.

When To Call The Doctor

Sometimes children experience delays in multiple milestones or just one. If you notice that the baby you care for has experienced other delays, the same may be true for verbal communication. So it’s a good idea to check in with the parents so they can consult their pediatrician.

A Language Delay

Babies may also experience a language delay and not have any developmental delays. In fact, language delays are the most common. According to the Academy of American Pediatrics, 1 in 5 children will speak later than expected. These issues can take a number of different forms. Reach out to your physician if you spot any of the following (note that these may indicate non-language delays):

  • Does not respond to their name
  • Was talking, but is no longer talking
  • Does not express affection like cuddling or smile back at you
  • Does not notice noises or specific noises
  • Seems to tune other people or the world out
  • Has some language like the alphabet and their numbers, but struggles with using words to express their desires
  • Uses words or phrases that are unusual for the situation or repeats scripts from TV

A Speech Delay

A speech delay could also be indicative of another sensory issue and it’s worth checking in about this as well. This could be a hearing problem, an indicator that the child is on the spectrum or some other developmental delay. A pediatrician should do a thorough assessment and from there can advise the parents further. Parents can also speak to a developmental specialist as well.

Watching a baby transform from a babbler into a full-blown chatterbox can be incredibly fulfilling for caregivers. Your influence on their growth and development can be vital. So are you up for it? Find your next family on Sittercity today.

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