Out of the Mouths of Babes - How Sounds Become Words

Out of the Mouths of Babes - How Sounds Become Words

There’s nothing sweeter than the first time you hear your baby babbling, and although their cute little sounds might not actually mean anything at first it’s a moment you’ll remember forever. These babbles will go on to form an extensive vocabulary that will take them into adulthood, but for now, the ma-mas and ba-bas are more than enough. 

So, how do our little ones go from their very first sounds to something more definite and pronounced as their first words? The evolution of language for babies is fascinating to observe, and there are plenty of enjoyable ways that you can encourage this baby speak so that you give your child the best chance at communicating.

The Evolution of Language 

From the moment they’re born, our babies are exposed to the vast vocabularies that we have as adults. From everyday conversation to singing and playing silly games, we’re the number one source of language for our little ones. Around the age of three or four months though, you might notice that your baby is trying to speak on their own and imitate your sounds with cooing and gurgling. 

After the early stages of these coos, and possibly even some laughs if you’re lucky, your baby will start to use some consonants as well. While it might be exciting to hear them say the sweet words of ‘mama’ for the first time, it’s generally just them exercising their growing vocabulary. 

By the time your baby is seven months old, they usually babble quite a bit and can make repetitive sounds. Eventually, this babbling turns into words which they link to their actual meaning around 12 months of age. You’ll notice perhaps that they can recognise daddy when they see him and say the words too, or point to the baby in the mirror when asked. Until then, though, there are some great ways you can encourage your child to begin their love for the spoken word.

Fun Ways to Encourage Your Baby to Babble 

If you’re eager to hear those sweet sounds from your bub, there are fun games you can play that might encourage them to begin talking. Remember, these should be enjoyed and not forced on your baby, so you’ll have to pick up on their cues for when they might need a break. 

  • Have a conversation 

This one is easy to do and can be enjoyed from when your baby is just a few weeks old. Try to vocalise everything you do, even the most mundane tasks, and check in with your baby throughout the day to ask how they are doing. After you ask, give your baby time to respond, and you might be pleasantly surprised that they can make some impressive sounds back to you. 

  • Babble bags 

Find a range of objects around the home that can be linked to noise, such as a toy drum or a plastic wrapper, and keep them in a bag. As you pull out each object, make a big effort to sound out the letters of its spelling. For the drum, you can say “d, d, d, d – drum” as you bang it, for example. 

  • Tupperware time 

Make use out of the countless plastic containers at home, and hide a toy or object inside. When you place a doll or toy into the container, say “bye bye dolly!” theatrically and close the lid, and then “hello dolly!” as you pull it out again. You might feel a little silly, but it helps your baby link words to objects and shows them a range of words too.

When to Worry 

It’s natural as parents that we look closely at milestones and mark them off when they succeed, but if you worry that your child is falling behind somewhat it can be a cause for concern. In most cases, you need to remind yourself that every baby is different and they all progress at different rates, so try not to compare them to others. 

Usually, if a child is a little behind in their speech, you might find them particularly engrossed in another milestone such as crawling or rolling, so you have to be patient. Babies grow at exceptional speed and the number of skills they learn and practise each day is quite overwhelming, so it’s natural for some things to take a back seat while others are in the forefront. 

At each of your child’s checkups with their GP, your doctor should be asking the relevant questions in regards to baby’s speech milestones, but if you’re concerned that they’re further behind than they should be it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

In the meantime, check out the rest of the Peachymama blog for more posts about breastfeeding and the journey of parenthood.

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