The first year of life is filled with so many communication milestones that your baby goes through to prepare them to use their first words. They start to laugh, listen, babble, make gestures, and interact with people around them.
It’s never too early to use language strategies for your baby, as they are constantly absorbing what we are saying to increase their understanding of words, so they can eventually use those words to communicate.
Typically, talking happens around your baby’s first birthday. In this article, I will highlight the number of words your child should be using, and ways to teach a 1 year old to talk.
*Please note I have updated this graphic in August 2021 to reflect current recommendations*
It’s important to remember that there is a range of typical language development. Each child develops at their own rate. The numbers above are the number of words children have on average. Some children have less and some have more.
I typically recommend that parents seek out an evaluation with a speech therapist if their child is 18 months old and using less than 10 words, or 2 years and using less than 50 and not combining words (mama up, car go).
Now, if your child is not saying this many words, that doesn’t always mean that they will need speech therapy, but a speech therapist will be able to assess all areas of communication to determine whether your child would benefit from speech therapy or if they are likely to catch up on their own.
There are many simple strategies that you can use at home to encourage language development in your baby or toddler. These are especially beneficial if your child is using less words than expected for their age.
7 TIPS: How to teach YOUR 1 year old to talk
Reduce the pressure to communicate
It may be tempting to try to make your 1 year old talk…”say bottle”, “what’s that?”, “say milk!”. If this sounds like you, let’s take some of that pressure off your child. We can encourage them to talk, but we can’t force them. It’s more beneficial to create a fun, easy going environment for your child to soak up new words and experiences.
Follow your child’s interests
Notice what your child is interested in and follow their lead. If they are playing with a box, simply talk about what they are doing so they learn to link the word to things in their environment. You could say “it’s a box”, “that’s a big box”, “your in the box!”, “now you’re out of the box”
Reduce screen time
Children learn best from interactions and play with real, live people. The more time your child spends in front of a screen, the less time they are getting to interact with you! It is recommended that children under 2 be exposed to zero screen time. This includes TV, tablet, phone etc. If this seems overwhelming, even just reducing screen time a little can be very beneficial for your child. Learn more about screen time and language development HERE.
Songs are a great way to engage your child, and teach language in a fun way. We know that children learn best through repetition, and the repetitive nature of songs helps the child learn what to expect, so they are able to join in on the actions and eventually some of the words. Click here to find out more about singing with your baby and ideas for fun songs.
Talk throughout the day
When I went to visit one of my friends (who is also a speech therapist), I saw how much she was talking to her 1 year old throughout the day. I remember being in the other room when her husband was giving their daughter a bath. She said, “it’s awfully quiet in there!” to remind him to keep talking! You can talk in the bath, when you are changing your baby’s diaper, getting dressed, feeding them- basically any time they are awake!
Act like you are having a conversation with your child. Even though they may not say words back to you, this helps increase their understanding of words and encourages a back and forth interaction. Children need to hear words many times before they are able to use them to communicate.
Use simple language
It can be helpful to slow down your speech and use simple language so it’s easier for your baby to understand. Use short, grammatically correct sentences: “its time for your bath” “I’ll turn the water on” “that’s too hot”.
Join in their play
Children learn through play. It is how they learn concepts like cause and effect, how objects work together, and develop problem solving skills. By getting down on their level and playing with them, it encourages interaction and maintains their interest so they can learn from you. They might copy your actions in play, which helps them eventually be able to copy your words.
It’s never too early to start using language strategies with your baby! Babies start to learn words before they will be able to say them, so by using these strategies at home, you are helping your child learn new words and increase their vocabulary
Let’s get your toddler talking…