Spoken language is a uniquely human skill and provides the gateway to sharing ideas. For this reason, it can be seen as one of the most important skills to develop. It is however vital to realize that speech is also one of the most variable milestones. Some babies have a large repertoire of hundreds of words by 2 years old and other little ones have as few as 30. Some babies say their first word at 9 months and others not until closer to 18 months. It is important that parents realize this variation and do not stress if their baby is a late bloomer.


Because language is an important milestone, there are ways that a parent can help their little one along the way and encourage language skills. Try these tips from speech therapist Tersia De Villiers so that you can be prepared-ish to encourage language:


  1. Be aware of your baby’s early attempts at communication – things like babbling, pointing and watching you speak. When you notice the early signs of communication, respond to them. 
  2. Look at your baby when he/she makes sounds and talk back to him/her. Eye contact reinforces the social aspect of language. Make sure you put your devices down and engage properly to encourage language.
  3. Play games that encourage your baby to imitate you like clapping hands and playing peek-a-boo. 
  4. Talk to your baby during everyday activities such as bath time, getting dressed and feeding. Research has shown that the more verbal and chatty a parent is, the better a child’s language acquisition and even IQ.
  5. Before your baby’s first words emerge, be sure to use gestures such as waving and pointing as these are early non-verbal signs that help to wire the brain for communication later.


Talking to your baby and making sure he/she feels heard with their little attempts at verbalisation is the key to encouraging those first words.