While it's true every child develops on her own timeline, delays in specific milestones such as talking can leave many parents wondering, "Is my child on schedule?" Here are some answers to your baby-development questions.
Social interaction is the foundation of language development, says Katrina Zeit, a speech pathologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "If your child doesn't pay attention to other people, respond to sounds, music, games, or moving toys, it could be a warning sign of a possible speech delay."
Between 4 and 6 months old, your baby will show an increase in babbling and some vocalization, says Suzanne Bonifert, head of Speech-Language Pathology Services at UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders. "The baby will start making some vowel sounds, and once she gets closer to 6 months, she'll start putting together some consonant and vowel sounds."
"Between 6 and 9 months, your baby should stop and turn toward you when you call his name," says Zeit. Your child should also respond to different sounds that you make, and he might even start trying to imitate them. "That's why it's so important for parents to talk to their child as much as possible," Zeit says. Research shows that children with talkative parents develop their language skills faster.
By 12 months, Baby should be saying his first words, such as "mama," "dada" and "baba." You can help increase his vocabulary by reading books and simply talking to your baby about what you are doing in everyday tasks. "You don't want your communication to be too simple or too complex," says Bonifert. When out for a walk, simply point out the pretty flowers or the big dog you see on your journey.
Also at 12 months, your little one has started waving hello and good-bye, as well as shaking his head no. Taking turns during playtime teaches Baby communications skills, says Zeit. This can be achieved by rolling a ball back and forth, sharing food, or even turning the pages of a book together.
Between 12 and 18 months,Baby should be able to respond to her own name, understand "no" and "bye-bye," and fulfill a simple request ("Can you hold your doll?"). Around this time, your little one will also be able to point to various body parts when asked ("Show us your belly button!"). Games such as peekaboo and "I spy" can help your child develop these skills.
Once your child hits 18 months, you will notice an explosion in her vocabulary over the next few months, says Zeit. "A child should be saying about 50 words by the time he's 2. During this time, she will start putting two words together, such as 'Mommy go' and 'big doggie.'" You can help your child along by being descriptive when talking to her. Instead of saying "Where's the ball?" ask "Where's your big red ball?"
By 24 months, your child should be able to communicate her immediate needs to you using words and starting to combining words (although not all of them will be entirely coherent). At this age, you'll understand your child's speech about 50 percent of the time.