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Fantastic First Words: Tips to Help Your Baby

Jan 4, 2022 Our child's first words are often something we eagerly wait for and never forget. These first words are often our first insight into our child's thoughts and hearing them, especially if they are “muma” or “dada” is super exciting.

But how do you get from simple sounds to first words? Read some tips to help your baby learn to talk!

Use Real Words Your Baby Can Use Everyday

There is so much we can do to support this lovely early language. Children are like sponges, so what they see and hear us do is what they will try to copy. When starting out, think about the language your child will see, hear and will want to use most . . . e.g. the names of special people (mummy, daddy, grandad, etc.), favorite toys (bunny, car, teddy), instructions (yes, no, look). These are the words that will be most useful and so most motivating to get your little one talking. 

Start Talking to Your Baby As Early As Possible

It is never too early. Although most children use their first words around 12 months, they start learning about language and communication from their very first few days of life. Try and chat with your child about the day to day things you are doing together and name the things you see and do along the way.

Typically they will start to use vowel sounds, then add some early consonants like “BBB,” “DDD,” and “MMM,” and then often around 12 months, some single words might emerge. Like most things with children, their developmental timelines are all a little different. So, do not worry if other children are progressing at a different rate than yours. However, if you ever have any concerns you can talk to your Health Visitor or contact your local Speech and Language Therapy department. 

Keep It Interactive and Engaging

If you are not sure where to start, have a look at the Speech Blubs App. There are loads of activities, songs, conversation starters, and games to support early word learning and to give you ideas of words you can model to your child when you are out and about. Play with your toddler and talk about what you see and do in the app!

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Simple Rules for Teaching Your Baby to Talk

  • Get their attention using their name so you know they are listening and looking.
  • Keep your language simple, using mainly single words to name objects and actions.
  • Model the language yourself for them to listen to.
  • Repeat the words as often as possible for them to hear.
  • Make it fun so they are excited to listen and look.
  • Show them the object or action you are naming as you name it.
  • Interpret what they say. If they make a sound, guess what word it might be and say it back for them.
  • Quit the questions. It is easy to end up quizzing our children, e.g “what’s that?” however, try instead to say the words for them to listen to and learn from.

Fun Facts About Your Baby’s Language Development

  • Using baby-talk or ‘motherese’ (the high, sing-song voice adults often use when talking to babies) actually does help babies to learn the language.
  • Boys often do talk later than girls! However normally only by a few months so the girls better enjoy it while it lasts.
  • A child learning more than one language from birth (bilingual kids) often become extra super talkers when they are older.

More Tips to Boost Your Child’s Speech

Have a go this week at encouraging some early words. Pick a time that is good for you and your child and have some fun! Discover more ideas on how to encourage communication, how to play with your toddler and how to use Speech Blubs App to your advantage. 

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments (4)
  • I just wanted to get your professional opinion. My 13 month old daughter still has not spoken a single word. She only makes long drawn out vowel sounds, and will occasionally point to things. What’s the difference between being a slow learner and watching for signs of autism or other possible speech delays? This is my first baby, so I’m not sure if I’m just being paranoid.

    • We get the same question regularly about when children start really talking. At 13 months, typical children talk, but not with real words. Their communication will consist of babbling, which can sound like “ba – ma – da,” and is the precursor for formulation of words down the road. For example, “ba” might turn into “bye” and “da” might turn into “dada.” With that being said, some 13-month-old babies do have 1 or 2 words. They can also start following very simple one-step directions such as, “come here” and may recognize familiar words, such as “spoon.” If your daughter is not babbling by 15 months, I do suggest that you look into getting an early intervention evaluation for speech therapy. We do like to see babbling by that time. As far as Autism characteristics, we have several blogs written that can give you great information about signs to look out for! Remember, every child is different – even siblings! Just because your neighbors’ daughter, or niece/nephew was a chatterbox, doesn’t mean your child will be!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • My son is now 19months old and he has yet to say his first words.(Mama or Dada) He tends to babble alot when you’re talking to him like he wants to say something but nothing comes out. He understands when you say some words to him like No or Yes or Hand it to me, put it down etc. He goes to nursery 2days but the other days is just at home with mum and dad. We have been doing all we can at home, we read to him every day/night have alot learning toys which we use but I think he needs to see a specialist, I have spoken to health visitor but was told he cannot be recommended to speech therapist until he is over 2 years old. I have been using Speech Blubs for a few weeks now and practice the same words over and over but still nothing. He does like the sounds of certain words/noise when we are practicing but still does not imitate. He doesn’t show any signs of autism or ADD so I’m not sure what else we can do. If there are any recommendations to what I can try doing I would be grateful.

    • First of all – it sounds like you are doing everything you can to try and get his vocabulary built up. As far as seeing a speech-pathologist, I would recommend that you get an evaluation. I’m assuming you are not in the U.S. and I’m not sure what your health insurance requirements are, but as far as the health visitor not recommending speech, if your insurance does not need a dr. referral, you can still proceed with private therapy. You can get a list of providers from your child’s pediatrician or by asking the nursery school if they have any recommendations. Some things you can do at home:

      1. Narrate everything you are doing – even the boring, day-to-day tasks such as brushing your teeth.
      2. Point to your mouth before you want him to say. This makes him look at how your mouth is moving so he can learn a pattern.
      3. Use simple speech. Try to not use overly complex sentences when in conversation with your son.
      4. Give him choices so that he has to attempt at verbalizing. For example. If he wants a drink you can say, “Do you want milk or juice?”

      I hope those suggestions help! Stick with your gut and get him evaluated. If you have any further questions, please let us know!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

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