Babbling is an important part of language development. The first sounds your baby will make are single consonants – like K, B or M. Most little ones start saying single ‘syllables’ (“ba”) and then connecting the syllables (“baba”) between 4 and 7 months. After 7 months, your baby will start to babble strings of syllables – like “dadada” or “mam-mam”. And before his/her first birthday, start to mix syllables like “Tada”. Unlike coo’ing, babbling is actual language and activates the left hemisphere of the brain.
Babbling in an important precursor to speaking words and according to speech therapist Tersia De Villiers, “It’s the baby’s first 'attempt' to communicate and also helps to build their finer muscles required for speech sound production.”
When it comes to language development, the magic happens when parents respond to their little ones. Tersia says that when a parent 'talks back', their little one’s language development and turn-taking skills are developed. Through these ‘conversations’, babies learn about the reciprocal (turn-taking) aspect of language as well as using different intonation. This is the start of conversations.
The top 5 Babies R Us tips for being prepared-ish to encourage babbling are:
- Talk a lot to your baby even before he or she can talk or babble. This helps him/her to learn about the social aspect of language.
- When your baby starts to connect syllables, respond by repeating them back to your baby
- If your baby strings a whole line of syllables together in a ‘conversation’, don’t interrupt him/her. Rather listen and make eye contact and when your baby takes a break, then converse back so he/she learns about the reciprocal nature of conversation.
- Limit your baby from engaging with technology such as tablets or phone screens at this age, as the screen may inhibit language development at this time
- From 7 months, listen carefully for sounds that sound like a word and repeat the actual word back to your baby with meaning. For instance if your baby says “NuuummmNum.” Then repeat back “Num-Num” and offer a biscuit. This encourages your little one to learn that sounds have meaning.
Language is a magical human skill and it starts in the first year of life with babbling and your response really makes a difference.
Megan Faure (OTR) www.megfaure.com
Meg is an Occupational Therapist with a special interest in babies and toddlers - specifically irritable infants; sleep problems, emotional engagement difficulties and fussy feeding. Meg is the co-author of Baby Sense and the Sense-series books. Her clinical practise is in Cape Town and she consults and speaks internationally too.