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How to help babies with Speech and Language between 6-12 Months

Updated on February 22, 2013

What do they have to learn?

To become skilful communicators,babies and children need to be with people who are important to them, and with whom they have a warm and loving relationship. Even at a few weeks old infants have different reactions to people, as opposed to interesting objects.They will watch, and sometimes reach for moving objects , but they will respond to people,especially carers, with smiles, lip movements,sounds, and excited arm waving and kicking.

Babies use their voices to let caregivers know what they need and express how they feel.When these first attempts at using their voices are rewarded, mainly by gaining a carers attention, they learn to extend their range of vocalisations and increase their language skills.

They are also starting to learn about ‘conversation’. This requires the ability to listen and respond appropriately, and to learn the ‘rules’ of communication through meaningfull contact with the familiar people in their lives.

The message

One of the main ‘messages’ I want to give here is that the babies caregiver needs to recognise, value, interpret and respond to babies’ and young children’s early attempts to converse. I want to reassurance parents that sound play and talking with their babies will foster their language development so that by the time they are in their third year they will be expert at taking turns and social interactions which include talking.


How does it happen?

After about 6 months babies will begin to respond to their own name and begin to understand words like-“dada”” mama” or “bye bye”. They show great interest in sounds and objects.They will engage in vocal play,and progress from putting two syllables together to making the same sounds over and over. They begin to learn to imitate adult speech sounds, begin to “sing along” with music and will also learn how to participate in simple turn taking games like “peek a boo” “pat a cake” or “round and round the garden”. Put Ref in here.

They may appear to “talk” to family members without using any true words. They will ask for food or toys by pointing and making sounds. They begin to understand the names of some common objects and follow simple directions eg-“wave bye bye”-“give me the ball”-. Understands “stop” and “No” and will often shake their heads to indicate “no”.

6-12 months

My first hub concentrated on birth to 6 months. Now I want to look at the 6-12 month old baby.

The second six months of life are dedicated to gaining increasing control over adults by using sounds and gestures.

By 12 months they will understand names of common objects, people, pets, and some action words. They will begin to understand simple questions-“wheres daddy”?


Between 6 and 12 months as babies gain better control of their tongue, lips etc they produce more and more variety of sounds. They will experiment with consonants such as d, g, f,s -so you get well defined syllables such as ma, da, ga- they will also repeat strings of the same syllable over and over again -ba-ba-ba-ba-ba This is known as babbling,

The first words!

Then they will begin to use jargon-this is combinations of consonants with varied pitch, tone, stress volume and rhythm which sound very like speech. Gradually babies put all these experiences together and somewhere around their first birthday they will say their first true word –usually mama or dada but it could be a pets or siblings name or something important to them like –bott-bottle.

After that they will gradually add more and more new words.

In summary

To summarise-the skills that are the foundations for speech and language development in the first year are-eye contact,imitation,sound play, and turn taking. All of these skills are usually learned naturally during the normal loving interactions with parents and care givers.

I will be talking in later articles about possible reasons why it does not happen and what to do about it.


Activities and games to help stimulate Speech and Language.

Stimulating your chids speech and language can be really fun.Start singing/saying rhymes to him early and develop it into a simple story as he gets older. There is nothing special needed but to maximise the use of normal baby activities and playthings. You don’t need to reserve a special time for it, but remember each time you take an opportunity to stimulate language by playing, and talking to your child you are helping her learn.

Exploring sound.

Using different voices –soothing-quiet, pleasant and upbeat,different pitch and volume as appropriate to the situation. Providing noise making toys-rattles,and squeaky toys.Toys that make different noises when you push different buttons. Things to bang-saucepans and wooden spoon-drums. Respond to their attempts to use sounds. Use exagerated facial expresions to add meaning to sound –“that’s Yukie” “all gone” Use short simple sentences.Make speech and sounds fun.” Can you hear the pussy cat-meow meow” “Let’s go in the car –vrooooom vroooom” Play “oops” Ref

Eye contact,Imitation, Turn taking

Lets look at activities that encourage Eye Contact, Imitation, and Turn Taking. Eye contact starts with the eye gazing between carer and baby as baby is being fed, changed ,held and cuddled.Similiarly with imitation it happens naturally during loving interactions.Carer makes a sound and baby imitates, carer waits and imitates baby.This also involves turn taking. All are progressed by playing tickling games, blowing bubbles on his tummy, playing with baby rattles and squeaky toys. Sing songs rhymes and games like-“Clap handies” “This little piggy” “Peek-a-Boo”, “Round and round the garden”,”Hip-hip horsie”. Pretend play with doll or teddy -“give some to dollie””lets put teddy to bed” ” Put in references here Links to Nursery rhymes and baby games

Physical skills and Intelligence

By now the foundations are laid and there will be an explosion of languae development in the next year. This may happen sporadically as don’t forget they are learning a lot of other things as well- physical skills such as crawling and walking, intelligence-for example they have to learn” cause and effect” and ”object permanence”

Cause and effect is developing when they learn that by shaking the rattle or squeezing a toy it will make a sound.Other cause and effect behaviours is when they learn to push a button to make a toy pop up, or turn a knob to make a toy operate.

Object permanence is when they learn that an object still exists even though they can’t see it. This is a big milestone in a baby’s life and can usually be seen as he begins to look over the side of his high chair when an object falls or lifts a blanket when a toy is hidden in play.

What if its not happening?

Where babies are developing normally there is no need to do anything more special.

I will be writing more specificially in future hubs about what to do where this is not happening.


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    • bredandagnes profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Glad you enjoyed it.Slower than expected to get follow up articles up but still working on it!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks again for the useful hub related to speech and language in infants and young children. I enjoyed how you divided this hub up and added bold statements and pictures. This age is very important to start initiating speech and language with recent research showing the window of opportunity for language development in the area of brain development and neuronal connections. Voted up and useful!


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