Language development: Infants, age zero to 12 months
For babies age zero to 12 months, language is primarily comprised of non-verbals and unintelligible sounds. Help your child develop language by using loving words to communicate with them.
An infant that hasn’t developed language does communicate. For example, according to Zero To Three, an infant who roots for his or her mother’s breast is not using actual words when hungry, but nevertheless is demonstrating he or she is hungry.
Tuning in to the infant’s cues is important. The parent can help build language skills by responding to the infant in a loving way using words, for example, “I see you’re hungry. Mommy, is getting your milk.” By doing so, not only has the mom used language and met the child’s need for food, but she is simultaneously encouraging her child to develop an attachment to her.
A parent can also look for gestures, and watch closely to discover what are their likes and dislikes. Be alert to what seems to excite them. For example, “Here’s Mr. Teddy. Mr. Teddy wants a kiss. Kiss! We love kisses don’t we?” Language can also be used throughout the child’s day by singing, reading and engaging in lots of talking. Some other opportunities that may present themselves are when the child coos, gurgles, or screeches “aaah!” In time, the sounds progress and turn to words at about 9 to 12 months. They may be a mix of consonant vowel combinations like “ma,” “ba” or “da” for “mama,” “bottle” or “dada.” A parent can also copy the sounds and wait for the child to imitate and repeat the sounds back to them.
Babies love to have their parent’s attention, and through play, parents can use language. The more language the child hears, the more sounds the child will develop that will eventually evolve into words.
Parents play a significant role in the development of language in their children. Discover some Michigan State University Extension educator-given strategies for a smooth and effective passage through the first two years of development by reading this article: “Language development: The journey through the first two years.”