When do Children Start to Talk?

when do children start to talk

The answer to the question when do Children start to talk can largely depend on how you as a parent or carer talk and play with the child. In reality baby talk begins from the first cry at birth. You can tell when young children are content and when they are not! How you respond to their “talking” can impact on when children start to really talk (from exclamations like “Uh Oh” to real words)

​When do children start to talk in real words can really depend on when they meet early “pre-speech” milestones and having a “language rich” home environment.

when do children start to talk

​When do children start to talk - First spoken real words?

​First spoken real words other than Mumu and Dada are typically expected at 1 year of age. The first spoken word is often something the child has heard the parent say SO many times that they begin to say it themselves.

Children do not just start to talk. The child is looking and hearing you as a parent make connects between the things and actions you do and the words you say every day! “Do you want a drink?”, “Here is a drink”, “Daddy is drinking that”, “Get your drink” = the child begins to understand what “drink” means and THEN they are more likely to say the word “dink” or “dwink”!

There are also medical factors that can influence when children start to talk. Children with known medical related factors (e.g., Down’s syndrome, Fragile X, repeated ear infections or hearing losses, Autism, cerebral palsy, dyspraxia) may be late to talk. When these children begin to talk or how they learn to communicate can vary greatly.

Some children present as late talkers with no obvious reason why! There are possible underlying reasons why a child might be a late talker. However, there are a few key milestones and factors that need to be met to answer the question when do children start to talk:

when do children start to talk

Factors that influence When Children Start to Talk:

  • “When the parents and caregivers have “spoken to the baby or child enough” and

At the right level for their child. By giving the child REPEATED examples of single spoken words, they begin to copy your talking. See parent information sources such as FOCUS on Toddler Talk for how parents can do this for children at different stages of development.

  • When the baby is able to show they UNDERSTAND the meaning of a spoken word

Children need to understand the link between a “word” and the object or action it is labelling BEFORE they will say the word e.g., (truck) or a “related sound” (e.g., a firetruck siren) and the names or labels of things and actions around them (e.g., look at or point to truck). Understanding comes before talking and these understanding networks in a developing baby’s brain starts from birth!

  • When foundation skills have been fostered and encouraged by parents & carers

Foundation skills include attention to speech, early turn-taking skills, using gestures such as eye contact or pointing & imitation skills. These skills are “Pre-speech” skills. Without these skills children often do not start to talk. Parents are given ideas of activities to boost all of these skill in the FOCUS on Toddler Talk online programme because they are important stepping stones in answering the question: when do children start to talk

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Sandra McMahon

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