The human baby is strongly wired to be a social being. Part of being social is the development of language. Language is the way we connect with the world and much of our learning is dependent on language.

Babbling begins at two months of age as your baby starts to verbalize. Although these pre-speech sounds appear meaningless they are the vital first step of practicing language for your baby. By babbling and cooing your baby starts to learn to control his larynx or voice box as well as the intricate muscles surrounding his mouth, tongue and throat.

At five months old, your baby adds consonants, such as b, n, m that are formed in the front of his mouth. At about ten months these sounds are linked together with vowels in sounds such as dadada or bababa. Not to bruise Dad’s ego but the reason your baby says his name first – dada, is that it’s the easiest sound to form at around this age.

Its one thing to hear and utter sounds but another to associate meaning with the sounds you make. At around eight to ten months your baby starts to connect meaning with simple words such as no, mommy or names of family. By one year of age your baby will understand as many as 70 words but on average only be uttering 6. Interestingly, the lag between understanding words and making the connection to say them is around 5 months.

It is important to note that when it comes to speech, the ranges for milestones are very wide. Some one year olds may not speak any words while another may have as many as 50.

Between a year and 18 months, language develops at a slow but consistent pace but once your baby says 50 words, a tipping point is reached and your baby experiences a language explosion. From this point, his vocabulary increases at an amazing rate of eight words a day and he will keep this up into his preschool year when his vocabulary reaches an astounding 13 000 words.

Top Tips

  • Speak to your baby a lot – research has shown that babies of talkative moms have higher IQ’s.
  • Language development can be very varied. Don’t worry too much if your little one is a little slower to talk than her friends, as long as she understands what you are saying.
  • When your little one babbles, repeat the sounds back to her so she starts to understand that language is a two-way activity.