Children can learn new words at an incredible pace. The most important predictor of vocabulary development is the number of words heard by the children. Those include words that are uttered during a conversation, while playing or reading a book, etc.

Here are 7 interesting things to know about speech development:

Even babies talk

Far before they become capable of saying their first words, they are already talking to you. Establishing eye contact, imitating facial expressions, babbling, cooing and crying are all forms of discussions. Therefore, make sure not to leave them unanswered. Imitate their sounds and respond to crying with words, confirming the fact that we can hear them and what they say means a lot to us.

Comment on events

“What is daddy doing?” “He’s opening the fridge.” “He’s taking out the milk!” – It might sound foolish to comment on these everyday events, yet the more you talk to them, the greater their vocabulary will be. It is also a great help if you label the things you see while walking down the street or the items you place in the trolley while shopping. Although your little baby probably will not mind if you share your latest workplace experiences with them, you should try focusing on subjects that might interest them.

Vocabulary explosion

Between 18 months and 2 years of age, the vocabulary of babies increases from 50 to over 250 words – this is referred to in professional literature as the vocabulary explosion This explosion-like leap is due to so-called fast mapping, during which an immediate connection is formed between the new thing and the new name. By 2 and a half years of age, the child possesses speech skills and vocabulary that allows them to mostly make sense of their immediate surroundings. By 5 years of age, they know over 5,000 words and by 13 years of age, their vocabulary can range from 30,000 words to 136,000 words. 

They understand far more than they say

Ask your one-year-old child to “give the ball to daddy” and they will do it even if they can only say the word ball. At this age, children are already capable of following simple instructions. By the time they say their first word, they already know at least 50 words.

The initial words are based on needs and interests

Children usually first use words they need: their favourite foods, the names of the people or animals around them or words signifying actions. At first, they mainly use nouns and then verbs and only later use modifiers (i.e., ‘more’) or negatives (‘no’).

The million word gap principle 

When reading your child a story, you establish a connection with them and it becomes possible for them to hear the rhythm of your voice. Additionally, while reading, you utter words that are not typically used in your day-to-day lives. Studies show that children who have stories read to them have a higher degree of linguistic comprehension and a more expressive vocabulary. In fact, one study showed that, if you read a story to your child five times a day after they reach kindergarten age, they will hear at least 1.4 million words more than those who never have stories read to them. Yet even those children who only have one story read to them a day, hear 290 thousand more words by 5 years of age. “Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. The reading skills of these children will develop faster and with more ease,” explained assistant professor Jessica Logan, the lead author of the study. It is not necessary to read all the words from the book, it is already a great help if you talk about the pictures, colours and drawings or ask them about the various scenes.

When did your child say their first words? What was the first word they said? Tell us about it in the comments!