Babies develop language at different rates. Even so, before their first birthday most babies will:
- Enjoy watching your face
- Show delight when you reply to their chatter
- Love you imitating them
- Notice familiar sounds and voices
- Enjoy books and music
- Play with sounds
- Understand their name, basic commands such as “no”, and the names of familiar objects
- Understand daily routines, such as bath and bed times
- Try to join in with action songs
- Attempt some real words
- Sound as though they are speaking your language
Most babies will say their first words between 12 and 18 months. They will have a burst of language development before they turn two, and begin to join words together by two and a
Most three year olds will use three to four word sentences and be understood by familiar adults most of the time. By four, children will use four to five word sentences, use grammar correctly most of the time, and be understood by most people. More on stages of language development
It’s normal for your child to make mistakes as they work out the sounds and structures of language. When your child makes a mistake, say the correct word without any fuss. If your child makes the same mistakes over many weeks, however, it could be due to poor hearing and it is advisable to get a health check.
Temporary hearing loss affects many children, especially in the winter, and is not always detected. Long periods of hearing loss can cause language delay, so it’s essential to recognise when your child is not fully hearing. Look out for some of the following signs:
- Does your child fail to respond immediately to his or her name or a loud sound?
- Is their speech muffled or unclear?
- Does your child appear to be ‘in a world of their own’?
- Does your child stare at other people’s faces intently when they are being spoken to?
- Does your child at times seem to be unsure what is happening, or are they easily startled?
- Is your child prone to runny colds?
When to seek help for language difficulties
A Speech and Language Therapist has been professionally trained to advise, diagnose and work with adults and children who have communication difficulties. Speech therapists work in a variety of settings including schools, health centres, hospitals or private practice.
Your health visitor or doctor may be able to put you in contact with a speech therapist if you are worried about your child’s language development, and particularly if:
- Your baby does not seem to listen to you, enjoy sounds or respond to them
- Your baby has difficulty sucking, chewing, swallowing or biting
- Your baby isn’t using real words by 18 months
- Your toddler is frustrated by not being able to speak to others
- Your toddler has trouble understanding what you say
- Your toddler stutters
- Your toddler has an unusual voice, for example it sounds husky
- Your toddler isn’t trying to make sentences by two and a half years
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