Language Development: From 0-12 Months

Language Development: From 0-12 Months

babyLanguage development starts early so it is important to begin helping your baby develop communication skills from the start. Along with the excitement and joy of having a new baby come many questions about how to care for your baby. Keeping track of language development is an important part of caring for your baby.


From birth to 3 months of age, you’ll notice that your baby seems to recognize your voice. Your baby will smile when she sees you and you will hear her producing cooing and pleasure sounds. Language development continues over time and you will begin to notice different types of cries for different needs. Furthermore, your baby will smile or calm down when she hears you speak. It is important to get your child’s hearing screened if a newborn hearing screening was not conducted at the hospital.

Language development is blooming between 4-6 months of age. Your baby will try to locate where a sound is coming from by looking and moving her head towards the sound. She will develop an interest in music. As a result, your baby will notice toys that play music. You’ll notice gurgling sounds, babbling and laughter. You will notice that she babbles when happy or upset. At this time, babbling will frequently have the sounds p, b and m (i.e. bababa, dadada, mamama).

baby_playingPEEK-A-BOO, 6 – 12 MONTHS

Communication is really taking off now and you will notice that your baby uses gestures such as raising arms up to be picked up. Babbling becomes more speech-like at this stage of language development (i.e. bada ma bibibi). If you are teaching your baby American Sign Language (ASL), you might start seeing your baby using words via ASL. Your baby will begin to understand simple commands and questions like, “want more” and “give me.” In addition, your baby will look at you when you say her name and will maintain attention when you are speaking with her.

At this stage, your child will love playing games like peek-a-boo. You’ll begin to notice that she knows the meaning of common words like ball, milk and cup. This is a FUN time because your child will begin to imitate movements, sounds and maybe some words. By 12-months of age, many children have a vocabulary consisting of 1-3 words. Keep a watchful eye because sounds are not very clear at this age and you might not notice that your child is using a word.


There are many things you can do that will promote continued language development. Here are some tips to help your little ones increase communication skills.

  1. Imitate your child. Imitating your child can lead to your child learning to imitate you. Furthermore, studies have found that infants increase babbling and overall vocalizations when mothers imitate their child’s vocalizations. Respond to your child’s communication attempts by imitating babbling, vocalizations and laughter.
  2. Playing games like peek-boo-boo, itsy-bitsy-spider and clapping hands can help teach your child to imitate actions. Furthermore, it will help your child learn turn-taking skill needed during conversations and social activities.
  3. Teach your child to make sounds such as animal sounds and car sounds. This will also allow for the opportunity to teach the name of common animals and toys (i.e. moooo cow says moooo). Use touch to help your children learn words. Research has shown that touch can help reinforce learning new words. For example, when teaching a word get close to your baby and playfully touch your baby’s shoulders while you say the word.
  4. Always respond to your child’s communication attempts. Look at your child and talk when you hear your child babbling or when you see your child smiling at you.
  5. Talk about what you are doing throughout the day. During bath time you could comment about filling the tub, making bubbles and washing hair (i.e. mommy’s filling the tub with water). During snack time, you could comment about drinking milk, sitting in a chair and eating a banana (i.e. Noah is eating potatoes). Talking throughout the day and showing your child objects you are talking about will help promote language development.

Looking for language development norms for older children? Check out our receptive and expressive language charts.


Child Speech and Language (n.d.) Retrieved from

Touch Influences How Infants Learn Language. The ASHA Leader, 19(7), 12. doi: 10.1044/leader.RIB1.19072014.12.

Pelaez, Martha; Virues-Ortega, Javier; Gewirtz, Jacob L. (2011). Reinforcement of Infant Vocalizations through Contingent Vocal Imitation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 33-40 doi: 10.1901/jaba.2011.44-33

Photo credits: Photo on Visualhunt, Muriel215 on / CC BY-NC-ND, Philippe Put on VisualHunt  

Have questions or comments? Share them with me in the comments below.