Although all babies are different, most babies speak their first words in their first year of life. But children can begin to communicate (if not talk) long before then, gathering vast amounts of information through play, observation, and interaction with their parents. This information eventually becomes the basis of their baby talk. So while parents don’t have to teach their child to speak, they can help their child’s language development by talking to them.
“Parents can help children develop language by paying attention to infant cues such as smiling and looking, looking directly into the child’s eyes, and responding in a slightly baby-like voice,” says Melanie Potok, pediatric speech and nutrition specialist. and prolific author. It turns out that the high-pitched, sing-song voice that people use in the presence of puppies and babies is a universal way for parents to communicate basic sounds to children and help them learn to speak. However, baby talk is more than the use of a sing-song voice. Waiting for the child’s response can help him understand that the conversation is not just one-sided.
“The best way to help babies learn to talk is to talk back and forth with the baby,” adds Potok. “You say something while looking at their face, and then… wait. Pause up to three seconds. This “pause time” is a game-changer and is used by speech therapists to help infants, toddlers, and even school-age children improve their language skills.”