Your baby’s speech and language development

Every baby develops at their own pace, but what are the milestones in a baby’s speech and language development?

A baby learns a lot in the first year of life: looking, listening, pointing, grasping, rolling, crawling, and maybe even walking. The order in which children learn all of these milestones is very different. Babies have specific preferences. One child is early with listening, another with rolling over. If a child is ‘late’ with walking, sometimes he or she can be very early with speech development. Don’t be too quick to think that your child is just “sitting around doing nothing”: he/she is very busy mapping out the whole world.

Your baby develops speech and language at his/her own pace, as well as physical and mental development. Did you know that “The Wonder Weeks” app describes the (mental) development of your baby in the first 20 months of his/her life? It’s full of valuable tips and insights!

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Milestones in speech development

So each child develops in its own way and at its own pace. But there are milestones to mark in coordinating all those muscle movements involved in speaking. Below you will find a few important steps on the way to speaking its native language.

But please note that the milestones list the ages at which a baby can start doing this for the first time. We think this is related to the development of the nerves. If a child does it later than indicated below, it may be because he started learning something else first.

0-2 weeks

Your baby makes sounds like “u” and “e” when you are talking to your baby. The newborn tries to “talk back” with his whole body, making moaning and pressing sounds. The ‘u’ sounds a bit like the word ‘the’.

From 6 weeks

Your baby can make two sounds like “u-u” or “a-u” on one exhalation. They appear to be sounds with two syllables and sometimes there is already a pitch difference. The “u-u” sounds just like a parent forbidding something. “u-u-u’-don’t do it.

From 12 weeks

From now on, babies can combine breathing, voice, and mouth movements. These three movement mechanisms are needed when talking. Three-month-old babies make sounds like “achre” and “arre.

From 15 weeks

Your baby is extremely interested in the movements your mouth makes. He watches the movements and imitates them without making a sound. Because combining all those movements with breathing and voice movements is still too complicated.

Around 4 months old

Your baby makes long uttering sounds that vary from loud to softer and from high to low. Your baby may hum and scream very high.

From 5 months old

Your baby starts babbling: on a single breath, he can pronounce several syllables that sound like “wawawa” or “bababa”. These are the basics of speech in terms of muscle coordination. After this, it only gets more complicated. They seem like real words, but your baby doesn’t mean anything by them yet. The rhythm of speech around your baby has picked up well by then.

Around 12 months old

On average, the first word comes at 12 months: your baby understands that the word means something specific. Often first words are “daddy,” “mommy,” “pet,” or “car”.

From 17 months old

From this age, toddlers can start making “sentences” with two-word phrases such as “shoe mommy” and “eat kitty”.

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