Babies: from birth to 18 months
We all make meaning of our experiences through communication.
Children are social beings who love to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences through different means of communication. Babies, however, communicate through gestures, body language, cooing, gurgling and babbling.
- During pregnancy, babies start to hear sounds from about 25 weeks in the womb.
- From enjoying the daily soundtrack of your heartbeat and the growling of your hungry tummy, unborn babies also start to hear sounds from outside the protective cushion of the amniotic fluid and your uterus (womb) wall.
Tip: Sing lullabies and talk to the unborn baby often. The baby’s familiarity with your voice helps them to quickly form an attachment to you once they are born.
- From birth, babies pay attention to sounds and voices, especially high-pitched ones.
- By three months, the part of the baby’s brain which helps with hearing, language and smell will be more receptive and active. When the baby hears your voice, they may look directly at you and gurgle in an attempt to talk back.
Tip: Try varying the pitch of your voice or singing as you read to them to make it more fun. The more you talk and read to them, the more sounds and words they will learn as they get ready to talk.
- From four months onwards, babies react excitedly to words and may smile when they hear your voice.
- At seven months old, babies will realise where sounds come from, and they will turn quickly towards new and different sounds. By the time babies are a year old, they will be able to recognise their favourite songs, and will try to join in.
Tip: Play different sounds and imitate the sounds with them. Babies will be delighted by lots of sounds and music (wind chimes, ticking clock, car, nature and animals sounds). You can even play them your favourite music and especially complex music like jazz or symphonies. Don’t just restrict them to children’s songs.
- Between five and seven months, babies learn that their names refer to themselves.
Tip: Call the baby by their name when talking to him/her.
- From nine months onwards, baby’s babbling starts to sound like real words, for instance they may say ‘mama’ and ‘dada’.
- Between 12 and 18 months, your baby will take more interest in words and will have a vocabulary of between six and 20 words.
Tip: Talk during everyday activities, naming objects, food, clothing and animals. Also have simple conversations with babies from one year upwards. Vocabulary development can be in any language but be sure to use lots of different kinds of words.
- Reading to babies, no matter how young they are will pay off. Hearing you talk will help the baby’s language skills.
- Babies love picture books and catalogues; the more colourful and interesting, the better.
Tip: Read picture books and illustrate the pictures to the baby by making sounds, actions and songs while you read. Picture books can be expensive so you can also use glossy magazines, inserts in newspapers and catalogues. Remember to not allow babies to handle books on their own as they will end up tearing them up; babies are fascinated by tearing things.
- Baby’s early attempts at writing certainly will not look much like words and sentences but these scribbles, lines, and drawings are all helping Baby get ready to learn their ABCs. From 12 to 13 months, babies can grasp a thick crayon and shove it around on a piece of paper.
Tip: Give babies thick crayons only and paper to scribble on freely. Their efforts should always be praised and recognised.