During these months, your baby might say "mama" or "dada" for the first time, and
will communicate using body language, like pointing and shaking his or her head.
Your baby will pay even more attention to your words and gestures and will try
very hard to imitate you — so be careful what you say!
How Babies Communicate
Babies this age test their verbal skills as they prepare for their big speaking
debut. From babbling strings of consonants like "babababa," they will begin to produce
recognizable syllables, such as "ga," "ba," and "da." By seeing their parents'
excitement at hearing "dada" or "mama," babies soon learn to connect a word with its
Even before babies can talk, they communicate through gestures — pointing,
shaking their head "no," and waving bye-bye all demonstrate their ability to communicate,
understand, and respond to language.
You'll know your baby understands what you say when you ask "Where's Daddy?" and
your little one looks his way, or you point and say "Go find the blue ball" and he
or she crawls right to it. Your baby should respond well to his or her own name, and
should look up (and at least pause) when you say a firm "NO!"
By the end of the first year, your baby will follow simple requests from you
("Wave bye-bye"), enjoy peek-a-boo, say "mama" and "dada," and babble with inflections
of typical speech.
What Should I Do?
Continue talking to your baby using names as well as repetitive word games, like
"This little piggy." Ask your baby to point to familiar objects and ask "Where's the
cup?" Or point to a ball and ask "What's that?" Pause before you provide the answer.
Soon your baby will be pointing and saying "bah?" as though asking a question.
Labeling objects during the course of the day reinforces the message that everything
has its own name. From milk in the morning to a teddy bear at night, naming familiar
objects will help your little one learn what they're called and store this information
for the day when he or she can form the right words.
Make learning a whole-body experience: Touch your baby's toe when you say the word
"toe." Or point out your own ear and say, "Mommy's (or Daddy's) ear." Face your baby
when you speak to let him or her see your facial expression and lip movements.
Be musical and sing to your baby to encourage language learning. By listening to
the words, babies learn to recognize and repeat them. Throw in hand gestures and vary
the style and tempo of the music to keep your baby's attention. Babies also respond
to rhymes, which show how playful language can be.
Read to your baby from large, colorful picture books, and encourage him or her
to turn the pages. Give your baby a chance to "read" and "answer" your questions.
If You're Concerned
By the 12 months, babies usually:
respond to "no"
follow simple commands
use simple gestures, like pointing or shaking their heads
say mama and dada
When it comes to language development, there is a wide range of normal. If you
have concerns about your baby's language skills or hearing, talk to your doctor.