When can you Expect Your Baby to Talk? Start before Birth

A young mother and her baby explore a special kind of communication through baby talk. This young mother grabs her baby's attention by going nose to nose.
Photo by Ana Tablas on Unsplash

Yes, Baby Talk is a Thing

You have heard families talk to their babies. This lilting quality in the talk seems to be a unique way to get a baby’s attention. The adult’s voice is much higher than usual, and the cadence of speech is much slower. It has the sing-song quality and is full of emotion. There is an emphasis on pronunciation.

How Important is Baby Talk?

If you are unfamiliar with babies, at first, you may think the baby talk sounds silly, but it has validity scientifically. “A variety of experiments demonstrate that babies prefer listening to infant-directed speech.,” as reported by the Parenting Science website. https://www.parentingscience.com/baby-talk.html Interestingly, even children as young as 3 years old do naturally replicate this type of baby talk when addressing their younger siblings.

Talking to your baby is more important than you would imagine. Researchers “found that frequent baby talk had dramatically boosted vocabulary regardless of socioeconomic status. Two-year-olds who had heard the most baby talk knew an average of 433 words, while those whose families had been the quietest knew an average of 169 words,” as reported by the Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/many-ways-baby-talk-gives-boost-infant-brains-180955435/

Quick and Easy Ways to Teach Your Baby To Talk

Talking is just half of the communication process. The other half is listening. Since your baby can hear sounds and voices in the womb, that is the time to begin the communication process. Your baby will hear the love you have for them. But how do you start the process?

Before Birth

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Yes, babies can hear sounds and voices in the womb. You can make the world an inviting place through a conscious effort on your part.

  • Read children’s books to your developing baby.
  • If you are bilingual, talk in both languages. Or listen to another language being spoken.
  • Play kids’ songs or recite nursery rhymes.
  • Talk directly to your baby. Your voice will be a comforting bridge between the womb and the real world.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

At first, it may not be evident that your newborn responds to your voice, but over time you will notice your baby turn towards you when you call their name or begin speaking to them. What a rewarding moment in development!

  • Talk to your baby in that unique baby talk way. Look at their face, make interesting facial expressions at the same time. You may notice that people tend to use a higher-pitched voice and speak more slowly while enunciating clearly. This is normal, but experiments have shown that babies pay more attention to communication when presented in this manner.
  • Say your baby’s name, whenever it makes sense.
  • When your baby makes sounds, respond to these sounds in sentences or with questions.
  • Sing some baby tunes or sing along with a recording of baby songs.
  • Continue reading children’s books to your baby. Repeat the stories often.

Infants (beginning close to 6 months)

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Infants are continually observing and listening to what is going on around them. You can begin to expand on your talk to increase their learning and understanding of the world.

  • Use baby talk less and start using talk closer to what you would typically say. Your sentences should be short and tied to the physical objects or conditions around you.
  • Read children’s books that include rhymes. Rhyming is a basis for learning how to read.
  • When reading, point to things in the book. Ask questions about the story. Respond with wonderment and surprise at some of the turns of events in the story.
  • Label the emotional responses you see your baby experiencing from being joyful, tired, playful, hungry, curious.
  • Explain why your baby feels these emotions. For example, you could say, “The giraffe is a new toy, and that is why you are so curious. You want to find out all about it.”
  • Look at and talk about photos of familiar people and places.
  • Take your child’s one-word utterance and expand on them. For example, when your child says points to you or says, “Ma,” you can respond, “Mama is going to take you outside. Let’s put on your coat.”
  • Talk about what your baby is experiencing as you introduce them to the world. “We are at the doctor’s office. Dr. Chun is going to make sure you are healthy.” Continue describing what is happening to your baby during the visit.

Early Toddler (about a year)

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At this point, most babies have begun to vocalize. Family members do understand what they are saying, but strangers may have difficulty in comprehending their utterance.

  • Expand upon those common first words. “Up” can become “Do you want up to talk to Mommy, or are you tired?” “More” will expand into “You want more watermelon. It tastes so yummy.”
  • Expect understanding to some of your utterances. Your child will begin to understand “no” and some language, especially if it is tied to a concrete object. You can say, “Take this book to Mummy.”
  • Now that you know there is some understanding of the language, it is essential to pair your utterances with their experiences. Label their emotions for them. “You are upset that mummy is leaving. She will be back today.”
  • Flip everyone of your negative responses into something positive. Instead of saying, “Time to stop playing for lunch,” say, “Let’s eat our macaroni, now.” Almost any negative can be turned around to something positive.

Late Toddler (two years old)

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Most children are using language to meet their needs at this age. You can expect that from now on, your child’s communication skills will increase steadily. Toddlers know between 50 and 100 words.

  • Respond to your child’s communication in full sentences. Include questions and expect answers.
  • Be patient. It may take some time for them to express their ideas. While you can support their language development by modeling what to say, you should be shifting into waiting for them to finish speaking before you elaborate. Don’t talk for your child.
  • Expect a burst in what words your kids can say. “By 24 months, your child should be using about 50 words regularly, such as more, juice, and Grandma,” suggests Parents website.
  • Take care with your language. Kids pick up on those undesirable phrases easily, especially if the phrases are in response to stressful situations. Now is the time to clean up your language.

Preschool to K (Three years old)

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Continue with your conversations, but now you can expect even more understanding. You can move from the physical world into different times and places. It is time to start discussing emotions, dilemmas and other more abstract but personal topics.

  • Now that your kids have more understanding, you can start to move away from just the concrete world – the here and now. For example, you can say, “It is raining today so we can’t go to the park, but tomorrow will be sunny, and we can go then.”
  • Give your child directions such as “Please put your red coat in the hallway closet on the hook.” Make the directions more than 1 step to see if your child can follow these more complicated directions: “Please put your red coat in the hallway closet on the hook. And bring me puppy’s walking chain.”
  • Prereading skills can be supported through verbal interactions. Now is the time to sing the ABC song. Just as critical is the introduction of nursery rhymes such as The Itsy, Bitsy Spider, any rhyme that also has actions is usually more effective. Help your kids to learn these rhymes for themselves.
  • Your child will start using vocabulary to meet most of their needs.
  • Expect that your child will speak in sentences of growing complexity. Take the time to listen so that they can complete their thoughts.

Baby Talk – Pay Attention to the Developmental Stages

Baby Talk First: Baby talk is the first step for building your child’s communication skills. You may feel silly in using this type of talk at first, but rest assured that you are using all of the tools to boost your baby’s development.

Change It Up: The key to continual development is to switch to a more conversational style when you realize that your baby understands what you are saying.

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