Hearing your child’s first words is an exciting and often much anticipated experience. Typically, children will have said their first word when they are around 12 months old. As their vocabulary of single word increases, they are usually joining words by around 2 years of age.
Not all children reach these milestones at the expected age. Children need to understand words before they are able to use them.
Before using first words, children typically babble and make their needs known by pointing and gesture.
As your child’s communication skills develop, these attempts should become single words.
First words may be a little unclear and this is typical as a child’s speech and language skills develop.
Here are some top tips to help your child develop their first words:
- Playing simple games such as Peekaboo, tickling, or ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ allows opportunity for repetition of words whilst having fun. Decide which words you will include and repeat them lots of times during the game e.g. boo, ‘where’s….?’, ‘go’ and ‘more’
- Commenting – Label items as the child is looking at them or carrying out an action e.g. ball, cat, shoe, car, jump, drink Your child will learn language more easily if they are interested, so commenting on what they are looking at will make your words more functional.
- Repeat simple language and phrases in familiar every day routines such as while getting dressed/undressed e.g. t-shirt on, socks on, shoes on, coat on, coat off
- Offer choices – show the child 2 items e.g. milk or juice, car or ball. Name the items as you show them to your child. Wait for a response – a look towards the item, an attempt at a word or pointing. Give the child the item and repeat the word.
- Sing nursery rhymes and pause at a crucial moment so the child has to request adult to continue e.g. The Wheels on the Bus, Round and Round the garden – pausing before the tickle/favourite part can encourage the child to join in.
- Requesting more – Blow some bubbles then stop. Wait and see if your child can request more/again then blow some more bubbles. The child might request ‘more’ by looking expectantly at the bubbles, this can be accepted as communication and the adult can repeat the words e.g. ‘more bubbles’.
- Reduce questions – use more comments than questions. It is more useful to comment on what your child is doing/looking at rather than asking ‘what’s that?’ or ‘what are you doing?’
Lots of repetition of the same vocabulary allows the child to learn the words in familiar contexts and over time they should gradually begin to use them appropriately. Allow plenty of time for your child to communicate – observe what your child is doing, wait to see if they are going to communicate something and then watch and listen.
If your child finds it difficult to request, it may be frustrating if they are made to wait – offer help before waiting too long – showing your child what they could have done. Modelling is a useful way for the child to learn new skills.
Early intervention is important and if you are concerned about your child’s understanding of use of language you should consult a Speech and Language Therapist.