Information about babbling, baby language and speech development, with guidance on when babies learn to talk, chatting with your baby and more.
The more babies experience conversation and language, the more effective and confident they become in their own communication. Understanding how your child’s language will develop can be really helpful in learning how to respond to their needs supportively.
At around six weeks, your baby will start to use their voice more actively, open their mouth wide, or move their tongue in what seems a very deliberate way, often making arm and hand movements at the same time. This is called ‘pre-speech’ and you might respond with things like ‘Are you talking to me?’ or ‘What’s that you’re saying?’ as though you’re having a conversation. Talking to your child is the most important way to help them start to learn words and has been proven to encourage baby speech development.
How your baby's communication will develop
Children develop skills at different rates, but by six months, they will usually:
- Turn towards a sound when they hear it.
- Be startled by loud noises.
- Watch your face when you talk to them.
- Recognise your voice.
- Smile and laugh when other people smile and laugh.
- Make sounds to themselves, like cooing, gurgling and babbling (baby babble is a key stage of development of communication skills).
- Make noises, like coos or squeals, to get your attention.
- Have different cries for different needs. For example one cry for hunger, another when they’re tired.
Speech and language skills develop from a very early age. However, some children don’t develop the early skills they need. This can be very difficult to spot from an early age. Here are four examples that would cause concern at six months:
- If a baby is not startled by loud noises.
- If a baby does not engage in eye contact when spoken to.
- If a baby does not smile back at someone smiling at them.
- If a baby does not watch a speaker’s face with interest.
If you have any concerns, you should speak to your health visitor, GP or paediatrician.
How can I encourage my baby to talk? Tips on baby language development
There are lots of things you can do to encourage speech development in babies at this stage:
- Copy sounds your baby makes. This will encourage more noises and is the start of conversations.
- Hold your baby near your face when you talk to them so that they can see you clearly.
- Talk to your baby about what you’re doing. This will help them to start to learn words.
- Talk in a sing-song voice to your baby. This will keep them interested in what you’re saying.
- Have some special time with your child each day to play with toys and picture books.
This article was written using information provided by I CAN, the children’s communication charity and the Talking Point website.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
You can also find lots more useful information and resources from I CAN.
Read The Psychology of Babies: How relationships support development from birth to two by Lynne Murray (published by Constable Robinson).
Take a look at the National Literacy Trust’s website which has information about early communication skills.