Is Your Talker On Track

Talking is one of the biggest milestones there is. Research shows that on average, kids say their first word around 12 months, and they are usually saying two word sentences by the time they are 2. Girls tend to develop verbal skills sooner than boys, and speech delays and problems occur more with boys than girls.

It is pretty normal to worry if our little talkers are on track. It is easy to compare our children's abilities to other kids around them. When other kids are talking and ours are not, it can be worry some. The most important thing to remember is that kids will talk when they are ready, and at their own pace. Every child's pace is different.

There are things we as parents can do along the way to help our kids with their language development.

1 Month
Crying is your child's form of communication and they will use it for everything. "Real Crying" or "wailing" like we call it at our house is a great form of exercise for you babies lungs. It helps them strengthen muscles for future words.
What should you say? Something soothing. Even though a good cry is strengthening vocal cords, the sooner you provide comfort, the more confident they will be that you are really listening, and the more willing they will be to keep "telling" you how they feel. So, attend to the cries in a timely fashion.

2-5 Months
Cooing, and lots of it. Babies language will consist of lots of vowels, squeals and growling. Babies are learning to use their lips and tongues to make sounds. They are also experimenting with volume and tone. All the cooing will help them form their first words.
What should you say? Words in a high pitched, singsong voice. Your baby will notice the high pitch and try to imitate what you say.

5-7 Months
After a few months of learning how to use their lips and tongue, babies will start to add consonants to their sounds.
What should you say? Talk to your little ones. Explain to them where you are going and what you are going to do once you get there. "Let's get in the car so we can drive to the store. Do you see that big tree." Don't worry that they are not conversing back. Research shows they understand a lot more than we think.

7-9 Months
You will start to wonder if your baby is really saying words. Sounds like ma-ma and da-da. Most likely they are mimicking what they hear you say, but these sounds are the final stage before the real language begins.
What should you say? Continue to talk to them about their surroundings. Tell them the names of objects and toys. They will store the knowledge in their brains and when their speech has developed you will start hearing all the things you have taught them. Also, don't assume what their sounds mean. Look at the object they are referring to before you assume you know what they are saying.

9-12 Months
You are starting to hear lots of half words. Na-ner for banana. Babies are saying words in real reference to objects and actions.
What should you say? As long as you know what your baby is trying to say, you don't have to worry to much about pronunciation. If they say na-ner for banana, give them a banana. Me-mow at our house means cat. So we talk about cats. It doesn't hurt to repeat back the correct word though. When they ask for a na-ner, reply by saying, "would you like a banana." They will imitate, so hearing the correct way to say things will only help them learn. But don't make a big deal about it, just work it in to the conversations naturally.

12-15 Months
Babies first word will always be something familiar to them and easy to say. Mom, Dad, ball, dog.
What should you say? Praise them for every word and keep talking. By talking, you are teaching them new words that they can add to their understanding and vocabulary. Praise for every word and attempt.

15-18 Months
By 15 months, most kids are able to say 20- 25 words or more. It is like that first word opened the flood gates. You will start to hear all sorts of words now. You will also start to hear more than just nouns. "Go,  run, walk, see." Action words will start making their way into the conversation now also.
What should you say? Keep the conversations going. Keep talking and explaining to your children. Be specific and name the things around them, as well as the actions. This is also a great time to put more effort into reading. One of to help your children develop their verbal skills is to read to them. Don't wait until they are 15 months old. Read from the beginning. Read, read, read.

18-22 Months
You are probably hearing lots and lots of sounds and words, but not a lot of it makes sense. I love this stage in verbal development. Our kids will look at us and rattle off some long sentence, a-blah-boo-ga-moo-moo-bo-bo-mow-dee. The funniest part is that the gibberish sounds just like an adult conversation. Intonations and all. Our youngest even uses her hands when she talks. Vocabulary words will most likely top 30 words.
What should you say? Keep talking to your kids whether you understand or not. I am sure we have all found ourselves saying, "really, oh, tell me more about it." Even when we don't understand a word that our children have said. Ask them questions and continue to converse. Talking back will let your little ones know you are listening and you care.

22-24 Months
Usually by 2 years old, your child is putting two or three words together to make their version of a sentence. One of those words is usually "more." :) They use sentences to explain, and have started to understand that sentences can make things happen. "More milk mama."
What should you say? Thank your child for communicating and for using "words" to talk to you. When your child posses a request, try to fulfill it, as long as it is within reason. Then they will know that they have been understood. This is a great time because there is more understanding between parents and children. When I can understand and fulfill our children's needs, they are less likely to throw a fit and cry over miscommunications. Praise them for their "sentences" and for their hard work.

Remember, these are general milestones. All children develop at their own pace.

***I know I mentioned this above, but don't underestimate the power of reading to your children. Not only is it important for their verbal development, but it benefits them in a million other ways also. Read to them all you can. A great time to do this is at night when you are putting children to bed. Or before you put them down for naps. Make it part of your routine. ***

When should you start to worry about your child's verbal development?
1. If your baby hasn't met any of the verbal milestones by the time they are 4 months old.
2. You have a 15 month old that is not saying any words that you recognize.
3. Your two year old doesn't ever put words together. They are still only saying single words.

If you have a concern, talk to your doctor. The first thing they will do is a hearing test. Depending on the results, they might send you to a specialist.

Witnessing children develop language skills could be one of the most exciting parts of parenthood. Don't worry about rushing it, enjoy it.



  1. Asher's first word was tree. Abbie's was more. They both love when I read the Llama Llama books by Anne Dewdney.

  2. So sweet, I love hearing our babe talking. Super surprised that at 11 months she already has a couple favorite books. She'll pull them out of the stack, walk them over to us, sit in our lap and open the book. Just this morning we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 3 times before I left for work. She loves to dance to the cadence as I read it. Fun!

  3. Actually, if it's a serious speech delay or disorder, skip the doctor altogether. Go straight to your county's Early Intervention department. In Ohio it's called Help Me Grow. To find the number, you can start calling a public school in your area that teaches preschool/kindergarten, they should be able to help you. Early Intervention specialists know what they're talking about when it comes to speech development more so than a doctor. And if you're extremely lucky (said sarcastically), like me, your doctor will completely brush you off and not even point you in any direction, let alone a good direction, thus wasting precious precious time.

    And actually, your list may cause some parents more concern than necessary. By 18 months, your child needs to be only saying 4 words before it become something that requires intervention.

    I especially agreed with your statement(s) not to push it. Every child develops at their own pace. However, Early Intervention will not hurt. The evaluations by the county EI department are free, and if your child qualifies as needing intervention a specialist will come to your home and play with your child and you, giving you many examples of how to encourage speech. And they're trained to identify apraxia and other speech disorders. Your pediatrician, sorry to say, is not.

    love your site btw.

  4. Thanks, Amanda, I completely agree! I'd like to add that when looking up speech delays on the internet, most of the hits will be for autism. While speech delays are a hallmark trait, they are not the most important piece to diagnosing autism, so do not jump to that conclusion for your child automatically! There are many, many kinds of speech delays and disorders.

    In 2002, After going through months of the county's early intervention testing and evaluating for my 3-YO son (which was very helpful but inconclusive), I sat at my computer, trying to research what could possibly be the reason for his delayed and interesting speech. I knew in my heart that he did not have autism. So I clicked and clicked to try to find something to describe him. Nothing. Finally, I said a prayer and asked for Heavenly Father's help. Within minutes, I found a paragraph that described my son perfectly. I nearly fell out of my chair. It turns out that he had Apraxia of Speech ( Oh, those tender mercies! He did have speech therapy through the county for two years, and upon entering kindergarten, he had an IEP which allowed him to receive speech therapy in school, which he continues today in 6th grade (but is almost done--YAY!).

    Lessons: BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE! No one will fight your fight like you will, no matter how well-meaning. And it might be a fight.
    LISTEN TO YOUR GUT! Again, no one will feel what you feel or know what you know about your child. You will get brushed off. You will be contradicted. Your ideas will be poo-pooed. If you know in your heart that something needs to be addressed, keep pushing. Do not dismiss what your gut is telling you, no matter what some well-meaning professionals might say. (Of course, the same thing goes for any childhood issue--not just speech).
    PRAY! Heavenly Father knows your child even better than you do, and He will help you. One woman told me to remember that my son wasn't God's grandchild (as if I were the go-between), but that I needed to remember that it was a Father-son relationship. It changed my view and how I prayed.

    Good luck. You will find the help you need, I promise. It may take some blood, sweat, tears and time, but it's worth it.

  5. Amanda, I left you a comment on your blog. And... you did make me look. hahahaha!

  6. THank you for sharing this! My son was an early talker, and had a HUGE (understandable) vocabulary by the time he was 18 months. I need to remember that every child is different as my daughter approaches the "talking stage" (soon) so I can't expect that she will be like her brother. Thanks for the guidelines! :)

  7. I am a big fan of using sign language. I can't really "prove" that it helped my boys talk sooner, but I can't prove that it didn't either. I love that they have both learned to express themselves early on (both have been right on with your lists or early) and I'm afraid I take that for granted sometimes. I appreciate that they can communicate what they want and they clearly understand what we are saying to them too. I just had baby #3 - we'll see where he stands developmentally. I agree that sometimes it's hard not to compare to other kids, especially siblings within a family, but each child is truly unique and special!

  8. Stopping by from SITS. My 2.5 year old's first word was "da-da." But my 13 month old's first word was "mama." So, we're even.


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