By Raising Children Network
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From three to 18 months, your baby’s speech develops dramatically. Simple, enjoyable play – such as reading and singing – will help improve your baby’s language skills.


What to expect

Your baby is likely to:

  • coo, gurgle and babble (from four months)
  • put two vowel sounds together (from eight months)
  • start to imitate your words (from about eight months)
  • indicate ‘no’ with a shake of the head (from 10 months)
  • attempt first words (from about 12 months)
  • know and use about 10 words (at 15 months).

From newborn coos and gurgles, your baby will soon attempt vowel sounds such as ‘da-da’ or ‘ma-ma’. First words come around the time of birthday number one.

Your bub will enjoy chatting,babbling happily when you talk, pointing out familiar objects, and understanding when you name things. By birthday number two, your baby is starting to master language.

There’s a lot of variation among children when it comes to talking, though. Some children will still not say much even by the time they’re two.

Research shows that encouraging talking skills is as easy as listening and talking to your baby. Sharing stories, songs, rhymes – even talking about your day – will all help your baby absorb language and build your relationship.

Play ideas to encourage talking

The more words children hear, the more words they learn. Here are some fun things to do together to encourage your baby’s talking:

  • reading aloud
  • talking
  • singing songs
  • reciting nursery rhymes
  • using story/song tapes or CDs in the car
  • explaining what you’re doing, even if it’s mundane. For example, ‘Daddy’s vacuuming the carpet to get rid of the dust that makes you sneeze’
  • repeating your baby’s attempts at words to encourage two-way conversation
  • praising efforts to talk
  • giving lots of smiles and eye contact to show you’re listening
  • expanding on basic words. For example, baby says, ‘train’ and you say, ‘yes, it’s a big red train’
  • pointing to and naming body parts. For example, ‘Where is your mouth?’ 

If by 18 months your baby is not babbling often or using meaningful words or doesn’t appear to listen when others are talking, there could be a problem. It might be a good idea to visit your health professional.

Sometimes, delays in communication skills can be signs of more serious developmental disorders or delay, including language delay, hearing impairment, intellectual disability and autism.  In the end, you know your child better than anyone else. If you have a concern, talk to your GP or a health professional.
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  • Last Updated 01-03-2010
  • Last Reviewed 01-03-2010
  • Bornstein, M.H., & Lamb, M.E. (1992). Development in infancy: An introduction (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Manning-Morton, J., & Thorp, M. (2003). Key times for play: The first three years. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

    Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Shannon, J.D., Cabrera, N.J., & Lamb, M.E. (2004). Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: Contribution to language and cognitive development. Child Development, 75(6), 1806-1820.