Parrots to Poets — Its all in learning to say words

A ready reckoner for you to check your child’s development

As a parent you may spend many anxious moments worrying whether your child is developing well, whether anything is wrong, or worrying about illnesses or learning disabilities. Well, most developmental articles or charts are just general reference points. Some babies grow and pass each stage quickly while others develop slower but do catch up. So, don’t fret if John has not said “ ba, ba or da, da,” when your neighbor’s child born a few days later already has.

Every baby is like a sponge and receptive to things in his or her immediate environment. A baby who has people talking and interacting with him or her all day long tends to learn words faster than children who spend long hours alone in a crib or play pen with toys. As a child grows, its brain too develops along with other systems such as bones, muscles, and motor skills. And, from birth until age three the child absorbs everything around it—sounds, sight, music, words, and more.

As you know, communication begins during the first few days of life—a baby learns quickly that it can seek comfort from its mother and that crying is what gets attention in terms of food, comfort, and companionship. The first sound a baby recognizes is that of its own mother.

So, be prepared for a baby that absorbs sounds and sights quickly, and if you are lucky, the baby at six months of age will make a few basic sounds that form words, and speak a few words of your native tongue.

The progression you will see is from cooing and blowing raspberries the baby will babble and then use repetitive words like ba, ba, or da, da, followed by strings of gibberish and magically at eight months or a year, the baby will start forming proper words. You may have noticed babies that speak two languages at the same time, their mother tongue and English—this is because a small baby when exposed to two different languages constantly begins learning both without a hitch.

Here is what normally happens: from birth to five months a baby reacts to loud sounds, when you move, he follows you around with his eyes and by turning his head, responds when you speak or coo to him , learns to show pleasure as well as displeasure by fussing, crying, giggling, and gurgling.

Then between 6-11 months a baby understands what you say and parrots the sounds — mouths ba – ba and ma-ma and other syllables– and communicates with gestures.

Once a baby is between 12-17 months he or she can sit with you and look at picture books, learn to follow what you ask, recognize objects, and family members. So, if you say, “Where is dad,” the baby will point to his father. The baby will also speak with two syllable words, and will imitate simple words.

At 18-23 months you will find a great change as many skills are enhanced and the baby loves being read to. He will listen to stories, point to body parts and objects, understand clearly actions like come, open your mouth, eat, and can pronounce vowels, say few words, and ask for things like milk or cookie.

It is from here on that learning is rapid. So, it is important for the parents and care givers to optimize learning during this phase.

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