When Do Babies & Toddlers Start Talking

Mar 22, 2023 | 3 minutes Read

It is precious to hear your child speak their first word. You gasp! You question, “did I just hear that?,” and then you anxiously wait to hear another word. Understanding when your little one will start to talk is an essential milestone in their developmental growth. We’ve got advice to assist you as a parent in supporting your child during this phase. Knowing what speech milestones to watch for in babies and toddlers, and how to encourage your child to talk is essential. 

Toddler TalkingToddler Talking

When Do Babies Start to Talk?

Early stages of talking occur shortly after birth. Most babies say their first words between 12 months and 18 months of age. Don’t be alarmed if your child doesn’t follow these exact patterns—it’s normal for language development to vary in youngsters. Here’s what’s typical for many toddlers when it comes to talking:

  • From birth to 3 months, babies make cooing sounds
  • From 4 months to 6 months, babies laugh, giggle, and make playful “babbling” sounds
  • By 12 months, babies will make a long string of sounds like da-da-da-da or mi-mi-mi-mi
  • From 12 months to 18 months+ of age, many toddlers will start to say single words related to familiar objects or faces such as mama, dada, dog, or ball
It’s okay if babies don’t form single words by their first year. Some babies may continue to babble into the following year in life with some pointing and gestures. This is all a form of communication.

Language Development Milestones After Age 1

Many babies tend to continue their language development after age 1 as follows:

  • Single words between 12 months to 18 months of age
  • Speaking about 10 to 50 words by 18 months of age
  • Saying two-word phrases such as “daddy go” and about 50 words by age 2 years old
  • Three-word phrases and words to identify almost everything by age 3 years old
  • Each year thereafter, you can expect to hear longer sentences as they grow
Tip: Talk to your baby’s healthcare provider if they’re not speaking about 50 words by age 2.

When Baby’s Speech is Delayed

If you were told your baby has problems hearing or has a particular medical condition, their speech may be delayed. Be sure you speak with your little one’s healthcare provider about how to best support your baby’s language development. Your sweet child may need help in developing language if they don’t meet these typical baby speech milestones:

  • Doesn’t babble by 7 months
  • Doesn’t respond to their name by 9 months
  • Doesn’t show interest or try to communicate by 15 months
  • Doesn’t imitate different sounds and words by 18 months
  • Doesn’t follow simple and direct instructions by 18 months
  • Doesn’t use word combinations by age two, such as "mama go"
  • Doesn’t identify people and objects in their environment

Other possible signs of language development problems in very young children may include:

  • Sudden loss of speech and language skills
  • Inability to understand words by age 2 ½ to 3 years old
Delayed talking is a reason to visit with your toddler’s healthcare provider. Early intervention is vital in supporting your child through this journey. Your healthcare provider may recommend your child work with other experts for toddler language development and may refer your toddler to a speech-language therapist for an evaluation. A hearing test may also be part of the process. In some cases, your child may need additional support to thrive in language development.

Bilingual Children

There is a common misconception that children who will grow up learning two languages at home will have delayed language development. There is little to no evidence to support this myth. Learning words in two languages counts towards the total word count. For example, if your child learns water and aqua, this counts as two words!

Talk, Talk, Talk at Home

Create an engaging environment that supports talking, singing, and so forth, as this is critical in assisting your child with language development. Talk to your little guy or gal as you’re driving in the car, riding a city bus, taking a walk in the woods, or settling into a warm sudsy bedtime bath. Ensure your child is growing up in an environment rich with communication and where people interact with them often. 

Activities to Support Language Development

Did you know that toys can support your child’s language development? Cause-and-effect toys are ideal for helping your child develop their thinking skills, which are essential for language growth. If using a smart device app, take time to interact with your child and carry the experience over to real life. Face-to-face interaction is vital for language development. 

Teach Your Baby to Talk

The best way to teach your baby to talk is to spend a lot of time talking face-to-face and interacting with your baby using real words as your speech. Babies learn speech by imitating and watching facial expressions. The following are tips to help you teach your baby how to talk:

  • When your baby coos, ask "Are you sleepy?"
  • Smile back when your baby smiles at you or others
  • Read a book to your baby emphasizing the words and sounds of the words
  • Sing nursery rhymes with or to your baby
  • Play with your baby using various types of toys, including balls and pots and pans
  • Create conversation by teaching them how to put words together
  • Use nouns instead of pronouns (e.g., mommy versus she)
  • Give your baby time to respond in the form of sounds, words, or movements
  • Enunciate words clearly – have fun and exaggerate them in silly ways just to watch your baby giggle

Talking to your baby is critical to supporting their speech and language development. The more you can speak and interact, the better support they have for language development. Use visual cues when communicating with your baby, which supports language development. It is important to note each child develops uniquely. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s language development milestones, please be sure to reach out to their healthcare provider for additional information and support. 


By Shawana S. Moore, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC

Shawana S. Moore, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, is a women’s health nurse practitioner. She serves as an Associate Professor and the Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University. She is passionate about equitable, respectful, and inclusive maternal-child care. The information of this article has been prepared by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.

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