Your baby's personal soundtrack is probably growing by the day, though what exactly you're hearing varies with the child. "Some kids begin to speak at 9 months," says Julie Masterson, Ph.D., co-author of Beyond Baby Talk -- From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers. "But wherever they're at 9 months, you're going to see with greater attention, greater detail at 10 months."
What to expect: Interactions are even more entertaining as babies become more vocal. Many babies around 9 and 10 months say their first word or wordlike sound, though 12 months is the average for that milestone, Dr. Masterson says.
Your baby might naturally grab onto words related to things he is especially interested in. For example, Dr. Masterson's kids' early words included a variation of the family dog's name. If you have a dog at home and say dog, a child might look around for the pet.
"They understand a lot more than we expect them to understand," says Thomas M. Seman, M.D., a pediatrician and president of North Shore Pediatrics in the Boston area. "They won't understand 'Wait 10 minutes and I'll get your lunch,' but they understand by the tone of the voice that there's an expectation. Often they will settle down if they hear your voice because there's an expectation that something's coming up."
Some babies might enjoy communicating with gestures, especially when they can point to get something they want.
Progression: "Development occurs somewhat linearly for the next six or seven months, so they're going to recognize more words, they're going to have more meaningful words, they're going to interact with games more, and they're going to look at books longer," Dr. Masterson says. "That continues until they start to combine words into sentences, and that doesn't happen until closer to 2 years."
How to help: Continue to read to and talk to your baby as much as possible. Also, try to use short sentences and words that are easier for your child to understand -- for example, ball or daddy instead of words with complex meanings like need. Demonstrate the meaning of words such as eat, drink, more, again, hot, and cold.
"Those are basic concepts, they serve a really important communicative need, and they're within her cognitive capacity," Dr. Masterson says.
When you should worry: If your baby isn't interested in interacting with the people around her, Dr. Seman says.
Don't freak out if: If your normally easygoing kid starts to throw some hissy fits. "This is the beginning of tantrums -- not full-blown tantrums, but expressing their displeasure," Dr. Seman says. "The best thing to do is, if there's something that needs to be corrected, if big brother took a toy, correct that. If it's you saying no, let them cry and walk away. If they're just ticked off, they have to deal with that."
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