Baby & Toddler / 20 February, 2023 / My Baba

How To Support Your Baby’s Speech Development

Your baby’s communication starts from the moment they are born. You’ll notice small moments that are meaningful milestones in their speech and language development. In this article, noala speech professionals will guide you through the first two years of your baby’s speech development. Our experts also share their top tips to encourage speech and language during their early years. 

Baby’s Speech Development: why is it important to track your baby’s early years?

For your baby, experiences during their early childhood impact their brain’s architecture. From birth to 8 years old, these early year experiences builds the foundation for your child’s future behavior, learning, and health. A good foundation supports children on their communication journey and develops future skills. 

During your baby’s first year of development, it is vital to keep track of these milestones. Some developing milestones are more noticeable than others. However, these will be good indications to know your baby’s speech and language are on track. Like their first smile, cry, coo, and babble. 

What is speech and language development?

The skills we use to communicate with others are known as speech and language. Being able to communicate supports us in expressing our needs and wants, and helps us learn and build relationships.

Speech and language can be defined as;  

  1. Speech: use of language. For example, being able to express different sounds and words. 
  2. Language: understanding of language. For example, being able to listen to others and be understood through verbal, non-verbal, and written communication. 

Are my baby’s speech and language developing?

A few skills you can track that can be commonly seen through play and interaction include;

  • Attention: the ability to focus on an object with someone, relaying to joint attention. 
  • Listening: uses eye contact and facial expressions, responding to different gestures and sounds. 
  • Movement: can engage with daily activities. 
  • Sound: use their voice, babbling, and vocalizations. 

Read more on 0-12 month communication milestones in this blog

How do I know if my baby’s speech and language is delayed?

Let’s break down your baby’s first 2 years of speech and language development into 6 factors. If your answer is yes to the majority of these factors, then we may recommend that you check in with your healthcare advisor for advice on the next steps and referrals.  

To note, every child works at their own pace and milestones are indications of estimated age development. 

  • By 12 months, your child isn’t using gestures i.e. pointing and waving.
  • By 18 months, your child prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate.
  • By 18 months, your child has difficulty understanding simple instructions and imitating sounds.
  • By 2 years, your child only imitates you and doesn’t produce phrases and words spontaneously.
  • By 2 years, has use of limited sounds and words. Unable to communicate immediate needs and can’t follow simple instructions. 
  • By 2 years, your child has an unusual tone of voice i.e. nasal or raspy sounding.

As a reference point, by 4 years, your child should be mostly understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners. For more guidance on expected speech and language development, read this clinically backed blog.

Let’s get dive into the fun part of this blog. How we can foster our children’s speech and language parent-led and from the comfort of your home. 

The parent-led play has a huge impact on your child’s development. Positive play can be incorporated into everyday activities. Play supports your child’s speech and language skills by teaching them to better understand body language, facial expressions, and listening. 

Reasons why parent-led play is important:

  1. Shows that communication has a purpose and teaches your child that it’s fun. 
  2. It encourages turn-taking and engaging in play with others. 
  3. Communication can be non-verbal as well. For example it shows your child different gestures and eye contact. 
  4. Create positive relationships and build your bond through quality time. 
  5. Increases their language development and skills. 
  6. Increases your child’s creativity. 
  7. Play supports problem-solving skills. 

How to build opportunities to play with your child

Firstly, get yourself at your child’s eye level. Get down on the follow and minimize means for distraction i.e. turn off the television. Once you are in your child’s space and down at their level, follow their lead. Key factors to following their lead include; 

  • Observation 
  • Watching and waiting 
  • Listening 
  • Joining in 
  • Being repetitive

Your child will guide you on what they want to do and you can incorporate positive encouragement. Ask them questions and ask them to tell you what they’re doing. For example, ask them “What’s your favorite toy?” Now if they’re not verbal yet, answer your question with a short sentence. “Teddy, is teddy your favorite toy?”. 

Make speech practice fit into life, rather than working around it. Play doesn’t need to use toys and you don’t need to spend money on toys for your child. Keeping activities simple is key. 

  • Daily routine: meal times, shopping, bath time, bedtime, tidying, and more. Guide your child through short simple instructions. For example bath time; first we open the water. Then, we’re going to fill the bath up. When it’s filled up, we can get in. Using toys, you can ask your child, “show me duck” or “let’s wash your tummy, where is your tummy”. 
  • Household items: pots, pans, plastic bottles. Walk around the house and name items with your child’s target words in. Find me teddy. 

Our children play every day and are observing everything we do. So next time you cook, ask your child about the food items you’re using. For more tips on encouraging your child’s communication through play, read noala’s clinically backed blog

Noala offers accessible speech and language services. Offering parents advice and strategies for fostering your child’s first words, sentences, and speech sounds. Their speech professionals support you through tailored programs, communication boost, and speech sounds success.

You can find out more about noala here or simply sign up for free for their programs here

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