Let’s Play: A Guide to Language in the First Year

by | Aug 16, 2016

During the first year of life, your new baby will take the journey that brings him from a crying ball of mush to his first words.  It is exciting, breathtaking…and nerve-racking as you ponder whether all this is normal.  As part of my new parenting series, I present to you the speech and language milestones and expectations for your baby’s first year.  I have also included activities that you can incorporate to maximize your child’s development at that stage.

The author and her cousin

The First Three Months

When you first bring your child home, you’ll get to go through the process of getting to know each other.  You will begin to discover the meaning behind each cry and will gradually adjust to your sleepless nights.  Before you know it, your baby will be smiling at the sound of your voice and making cooing sounds.  By 3 months, your child should be:

  • startling to loud sounds
  • smiling when spoken to or seeing you
  • making cooing sounds
  • recognizing your voice
  • varying cries

It is important to spend plenty of time bonding with your new baby during these early months and many of these early milestones can be achieved during simple daily activities, such as mealtime, bath time, and cuddling time. In addition, you can also incorporate:

Months 4-6

By this time, you are beginning to think this parenting thing isn’t so difficult.  Likely, you are sleeping better and you and your family have settled into life’s new routines.  You’ll begin to notice that your baby’s eyes brighten when he sees you and he is beginning to communicate with open vowel sounds, such as “aaaa” and “oooo”.  By 6 months, your child should be:

Continue playing with your child and building off of the activities that have become a part of your daily routine to keep developing their language in the first year.  For example, stand across the room or behind your child and have them turn towards the rattle or your voice or respond to babbling with a longer string (if your baby says “ba” you say “baba”).  Toys for this age include:

7 months-1 year

You made it! This parenting thing isn’t so difficult, after all.  Development builds off the previous stage, so just follow your child’s natural progression and soon you will hear his first words.  By a child’s first birthday, he should:

  • enjoy games like peek-a-boo
  • recognize words for common items
  • babble with long and short sounds
  • imitate different speech sounds
  • begin to respond to requests (give me ball)
  • has 1-2 words

To encourage your child to speak, it is important that you continue to have eye contact and engage in playful language games with your child.  Label things throughout your environment and have your child request what he wants, either by using a gesture or a vocalization—not crying.  Games and toys for this age can include:

Further Reading

For more information on your language in the first year, check out Baby Talk and The 30 Million Words Project.

Contact me for a free phone consultation regarding your child’s development.


Hi, I’m Jocelyn M. Wood, Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist and child development expert.

I’m here to show you how to bring out your child’s unique voice using simple, easy to follow strategies that work for you and your family.

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