(Parenting.com) -- Although your baby won't say much during her first year of life (at least not in words you understand), her language skills begin to grow the minute she's born. Here's how the process unfolds:
Age: Birth to three months
What your baby does: Your little sweetie is learning about voices by listening to yours. The coos and gurgles that emerge at the end of this period are her first attempts at imitating the sounds you make.
How to help: Sing and talk to your baby often, but also keep other distracting background noises (the TV, radio) to a minimum so she can hear and focus on the sounds she's working on.
Age: Three to six months
What your baby does: Your child is beginning to notice how people converse with each other, and wants to join in on the dialogue.
How to help: When you talk to him, pause after saying something ("Would you like to play with this pretty red rattle?") so he has a chance to respond in his own language. If he tries to make the same sound as you, repeat the word for him.
Age: Six to nine months
What your baby does: The vocalizations your baby makes are be- ginning to sound more like words now -- baba and dada, for instance. She'll also express emotion in response to the tone of your voice, smiling if you are talking happily, showing distress if you are yelling or expressing anger.
How to help: Talk her through her days: "Where did the puppy go? Oh, look, here's the puppy on the sofa," labeling and showing her what you're referring to as much as possible. Use a mirror to show her who she is: "Who's that little girl? It's Rachel!"
Age: Nine to twelve months
What your baby does: His receptive language skills are exploding now; that is, he knows what you're referring to even though he can't repeat the words himself. He may scamper to the high chair if you say it's time to eat, or look around for a toy when you ask him where a favorite plaything is.
How to help: Begin to label body parts ("nose," "eyes," "tummy," "toes"), spend more time reading books together and talking about the pictures, and teach interactions such as waving bye-bye and blowing kisses.
Age: Twelve to fifteen months
What your baby does: Here come the words. Though the number an individual baby can say varies greatly at this stage -- from one or two to a dozen or more -- you can expect your child's spoken vocabulary to pick up speed during this period. Even when he can't say something, he knows how to tell you what he wants through gestures.
How to help: Continue to label for your child, but also use more simple sentences so he can hear how to string words together. Respond enthusiastically at each new word development or attempt at communication.
This is an excerpt from "The Babytalk Insider's Guide to Your Baby's First Year" by the Editors of Babytalk Magazine. Copyright © 2008 by The Parenting Group, Inc. Published by Grand Central Publishing, New York. All rights reserved.
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