All babies are born with the desire to communicate. By three months of age your baby is babbling, cooing and generally engaged with what is going on around them. By constantly chit chatting with baby, you are helping to develop their brain and expanding their understanding of language.  

How babies learn language

Babies need to hear language spoken by real people. The caring and engaging tone of your voice will soothe and reassure them.

It is important to spend time talking to your baby without the noise of the television or radio on in the background. They need to be able to hear clearly the words you are saying to them.  

It is never too early to start reading to your baby. Babies may begin to explore books by looking, touching and mouthing. Mem Fox,  Australian children’s author, has a great website that reinforces the importance of reading to children. 

Language and brain development

Repeated exposure to words helps brains to build neural connections. These connections will enable a baby to learn words.

The sequence of language development follows brain development. Receptive language (listening to and understanding meaning) develops before expressive language (producing speech). This is because the area of the brain relating to receptive speech develops first. 

What you can do to help 

  • Play games with your baby e.g. peek-a-boo. This will help your baby to learn about give and take. This is an important skill for engaging in conversation and learning language. 
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes.
  • Enjoy picture books together. 
  • Leave books where your baby can reach them and allow your baby to explore books in any way they like, even if it is for only a few seconds. 
  • Talk about everyday things, hold conversations with your baby and follow their lead. Responding to your baby’s sounds is also important, since these are your baby’s first attempts at using language. Your response motivates them to keep trying. 
  • Introduce new words. It is important for children to be continually exposed to lots of different words in lots of different contexts. This helps them learn the meaning and function of words in their world. 

Want to know more? 

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Baby development 

Raising Children Network – Language development 3 – 12mth

If you still have questions, contact our Parenting Line