Episode 02 – Boosting Your Child’s First Words

In this episode of the Chatabout Children™ podcast, we’ll talk all about first words where I answer the top question I often get from parents and educators as a speech pathologist.

In particular, we’ll discuss the following in the podcast:

Communication milestones from birth to 2 years of age

It is vital to make communication the heart of connection with your child. Here are the milestones that will serve as your guide:

  • Birth: communication starts once your baby becomes aware of their environmental sounds.
  • 6 months: your baby responds to voice tone changes.
  • 6-9 months: your baby starts understanding his or her own name, imitation of greetings like waving hello and goodbye, eye contact when you say “Where’s mum?”
  • 1 year: your child starts recognizing familiar objects like a ball or nose and responding to simple requests like “Give the ball to mum.”
  • 18 months: your child’s understanding increases – short phrases, follow simple instructions like “Throw the ball” or points to familiar objects too like “Point to ball.”
  • 2 years: your child follows longer instructions like “Get me the ball and the shoe.”

In terms of expressive language, or learning how to speak a language, here are the milestones:

  • Birth: your newborn makes sounds expressing their pleasure or pain through crying
  • 3 months: your baby makes lots of coos and sounds are often repeated
  • 4-6 months: your baby’s sound play increases like babbling of p, b and m
  • 12 months: your child’s babbling changes and becomes longer, often 2 parts like “Mama” and “Dada” with intonation sounding like an adult. First words often arrive here. She also starts recognizing people and objects, having more eye contact and continues to babble and copy different sounds and noises.
  • 18 months: your child speaks 6 to 20 single words, copies lots of words and noises, and can name different body parts
  • 2 years: your child can answer simple “What” and “Where” questions, says more than 50 single words and puts two words together like “Bye Teddy”. An uprise in the voice when asking questions like “Mummy gone?” is also noticed. He/she also speaks most vowel sounds and consonants like m, n, p, b, h, k, g, t, d, w, h.

What to expect from children who speak a foreign language outside of English

If you have another language at home besides English, for example, the dominant language is Spanish, then expect the communication milestones to still apply, but in Spanish.

What if your child is not reaching those milestones?

Don’t panic. The first thing is awareness of the milestones and the expectations. Second, consult a medical professional. Make sure to have their ears checked.

3 early signs that first words are soon to erupt

  1. Attention – eye gaze, facial expression, sounds and noises made, gestures and actions are things to look out for.
  2. Turn-taking – if your child is responding to simple turn-taking games like peek-a-boo.
  3. Imitation – when a child copies your actions like during nursery rhymes, shaking your head, etc.

6 key strategies to boost those first words

  1. Modelling – use simple terms and shorter sentences. Talk about what’s happening and what you’re doing like “open door” or “close door”. That will help your child piece things together.
  2. Build anticipation and wait – lovely to do with nursery rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. You can sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little and then pause – this builds up anticipation.
  3. Encouraging choice – you’re providing opportunities for choices and giving your child control like “You want a banana or an apple?”
  4. Interactive book-sharing – books are amazing at maximizing language development. Start a daily book routine.
  5. Question usage – tune in to what kind of questions you ask your child. Ask open questions like “What happened at ____?”, “What are we going to do now?”. Or consider questions with two options.
  6. Expansion – building on new words your child has developed by adding a word or 2. If they say “car”, you say “big green car”. But take note that you are not asking them to repeat what you said. They will eventually develop that.

Answers to common questions

Are boys slower than girls?

Research shows that boys tend to erupt words a bit slower than girls by about 3 months.

An associate once told me that he knew someone as a child who didn’t speak until he was 3. And he’s absolutely fine now. Why wouldn’t we wait until a child is 3?

I ask, what’s happening in the child’s world until the age of 3? Is it full of frustration? Why not make it a happier environment for everyone. Trust your gut instinct. If as a parent you choose to wait, put a deadline up, so you know when you should act on seeking professional advice.

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Any information and links presented within the Chatabout Children™ with Sonia Bestulic podcast are aimed to provide general information and advice only.
Information is to be used at the discretion of the consumer/ listener. The information presented does not replace or substitute the expert advice received from a direct consultation with the relevant qualified professional.


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Award Winning Book: FLOURISH FOR MUMS by Sonia Bestulic