Baby Talk

Baby talk is a very important aspect of your toddler's life and is the underlying tool for learning and creativity. It helps to develop her thinking ability and communication skills. Your toddler usually understands words and concepts even before she starts talking! Remember that she has been hearing you talk right from the time when she was in the womb. She understands more than you as a parent can imagine.

Baby Talk

Her coos as a baby slowly give way to sounds as she nears a year. These slowly turn into words and finally sentences. Most babies have spoken their first word by their first birthday. On an average, your toddler has a spoken vocabulary of about 50-75 words when she is two years old. At this point she also starts to put words together to make two- word phrases. She however understands far more than she can talk. The months after the second birthday see an “explosion” of speech – the number of words jump to around 200 or more and real sentences start to appear. The use of pronouns (I, you) start at this time. 

When she completes her third birthday, her vocabulary count is most likely to rise to about 1000 words or more and complex sentences appear. Your child is also likely to start asking questions by this time. Some toddlers take more time in learning to talk than others. So do not worry if your toddler follows a slow timetable.

Video on Teaching Baby Sign Language

Tips to get your baby talking
  • Talk as often as you can directly to your toddler. If you make conversations just between you and him, she is likely to pay more attention to your talk.
  • Maintain eye-to-eye contact when you talk with your toddler.
  • Match conversations with your toddler using facial expressions and actions. For example, try saying "Let us remove your frock" as you remove her frock.
  • Read out simple stories or rhymes to her. Toddlers usually have a natural love for stories and music. Repeat the same stories or rhymes a number of times as your toddler loves to hear the same thing over and over again. 
  • After a few repetitions, take a break in between and pretend to have forgotten the story. Encourage her to complete the story or rhyme. 
  • Combine hand clapping or finger play with the process to make it interesting for your toddler.
  • Play a word game. Name everything that your toddler sees around her. Point out something to her and ask her what the object is.
  • Although it is quite tempting to imitate your toddler's baby talk, refrain from doing so. This may confuse the toddler. Instead, say the right word aloud whenever she uses baby talk.
  • Help her to talk by first understanding the language. The best way to do this is by talking to her often. Take her along when you go shopping. Tell her each item that you put into the shopping basket. If you are taking her to a park, you can comment on anything that you see on the way or in the park like "big red car", "bright blue sky", "round yellow ball" and so on.
  • Try to use each word in different sentences. For example tell your toddler "That bicycle is red in colour" and "The boy likes his bicycle".
  • Along with listening to human conversation, she can sharpen her listening skills by listening to other sounds such as chirping of the birds, the phone ringing, the running water and so on.
  • If your toddler enjoys playing with the phone before she learns to talk, use the phone to help you. If friends and family call up or you call them, give your toddler the phone at the end of the call. Ask her to speak a few words.
  • Always listen to your toddler when she chats with you even if you don't understand her talk. If you are busy, put aside the chores and attend to her. Refusing to lend her a ear may make her withdrawn.
  • Respond to your toddler's talks and baby language. For example if she rubs her eyes to indicate that she is sleepy, ask her "Are you sleepy? Come let's sleep." Immediate feedback motivates your toddler to keep talking.
  • Even if your toddler doesn't understand each word that you say, help her to understand the overall conversation. For example when you tell her that it is lunch time, lay the table so that she will understand what you mean.
  • Be ready to interpret your toddler's words for others who don't understand her. Also, explain to your toddler what others tell her. She will understand you better than others.
  • Describe each of your actions to her. As you comb her hair, tell her "Mummy is combing your hair."
  • Use different tones to talk to your baby. For example, ask questions in a different tone from when you answer her questions.
  • Always use your toddler's name a lot and point towards her when you talk to her. You can also name your partner and yourself and point to yourselves when you talk to your toddler.
  • As your toddler completes two years of age, start talking to your toddler using complete sentences. Allow each sentence to focus only on one action.
  • When your toddler speaks and pauses in between for a word, encourage her to try a few times before you fill in the blank for her.
  • Do not stop your toddler from asking questions. Encourage and guide her in finding the answers herself.
  • Make short conversations with your toddler and pause in between. This will motivate your toddler to converse with you. It is a good idea to encourage her to complete a sentence that you started.
  • If your toddler is drawing something, ask her what she is drawing.
  • Use books with pictures to help your toddler easily understand the meaning of descriptive words such as first, last, big, fat etc. Sometimes you may have to explain these a number of times to her.
  • Remember to encourage your toddler every time she attempts to talk even if she doesn't pronounce the word correctly.

Do not worry if your toddler appears to be slower than average in language development. Her verbal ability may develop at a slightly later stage and should not be forced on her. The following are key milestones and failing to reach them warrants a discussion with your paediatrician:
  • No cooing by 6 months
  • No babbling (mama, papa, dada) by 12 months
  • No words by 18 months
  • No phrases by 24 months
  • No sentences by 36 months
  • Any loss of babbling, words or phrases at any age.