About baby language development
Your baby’s communication skills grow a lot in their first year of life. Your baby learns how to express themselves, respond to you, and understand when you communicate with them. All this happens before your baby says their first real words, which is around their first birthday.
Expressing: baby language development
As part of language development in the first year, your baby will express themselves in many ways.
At 3-4 months, your baby might:
- make eye contact with you
- say ‘ah goo’ or another combination of vowels and consonants
- babble and combine vowels and consonants, like ‘ga ga ga ga’, ‘ba ba ba ba’, ‘ma ma ma ma’ and ‘da da da da’.
At 5-7 months, your baby might:
- copy some of the sounds you make, like coughing, laughing, clicking or making ‘raspberries’
- copy some of the gestures you make, like waving, pointing or clapping
- play with making different sounds, like ‘aaieee’, ‘booo’ and ‘ahh’ at different pitches and volumes.
At 8-9 months, your baby might:
- put sounds together with rhythm and tone, in ways that sound like normal speech – this is sometimes called the ‘jargon phase’ and might continue when first words begin
- say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, although they might not know what these mean yet.
At 10-11 months, your baby might:
- communicate using noises or gestures, with the aim of asking for something, saying no to something, insisting on something, or greeting someone
- ask for something by pointing, or by looking at a person then at something they want.
By around 12-14 months, your baby might say a few words and know what they mean, like ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ to refer to mum or dad.
Responding: baby language development
In these months, your baby will respond to you in many ways. For example, your baby might:
- make sounds, look excited or go quiet when you talk with them or say their name
- coo and laugh – for example, while you’re changing their nappy
- smile and laugh when you play with them
- enjoy games like peekaboo and other action games
- use gestures like waving or pointing
- respond to their own name by looking, widening their eyes, listening or smiling.
Understanding: baby language development
Your baby is listening and learning all the time. This helps baby understand their world.
For example, in these months, you might find that your baby understands:
- the word ‘no’ at around 10 months – although they won’t always do as you say
- very simple instructions with verbal and visual cues – for example, at around 12 months, when you hold your hand out and say ‘for daddy’, they’ll give you the toy they’re holding.
Children learn new skills over time and at different ages. Most children develop skills in the same order, and each new skill they learn builds on the last. Small differences in when children develop skills are usually nothing to worry about. But if something about your child’s language development worries you, it’s a very good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse, GP or paediatrician.