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Reading & Language

Baby Listening Milestones

Baby giggling with momBirth to 6 Months Old
Your baby lives in a world made up of voices. He even recognizes voices he heard before he was born. No wonder babies prefer their mothers’ voices to others. When a 2-month-old’s mom enters the room and speaks, watch his head turn toward her. Babies get excited by lively, higher-pitched voices and are soothed by lower, quieter ones.

6 to 12 Months Old
Babies love to listen to animated speech about people and objects they can see or touch. At this age, your baby will have trouble understanding conversations about people and objects that are not present. She will, however, delight in playing peek-a-boo as she begins to learn that things that are covered up are still there. If you are raising your baby to become bilingual, this is a good time to introduce objects to your baby and tell her the words for them in both languages.

12 to 18 Months Old
Babies quickly develop a large listening vocabulary. Your baby understands 50 or more words during this period of development. Although he is not yet able to say the words he knows, he will demonstrate his understanding by pointing to or looking at familiar objects or people when asked. Babies learn these words by hearing adults talk to them about things they can see, hear, and touch.

Encouraging Your Baby

  • Listen to your baby’s “nonverbal” cues and respond in a loving way. Even before your baby says her first word, she communicates. She uses different cries and facial expressions to tell you she is tired, bored, or interested. She gets your attention by catching your eye and smiling. When you respond to your baby’s signals, you show her that you understand her and value what she is telling you. Smile at your baby when she seems ready to play, change activities when she looks away, and talk to her when she smiles at you.
  • Talk to your baby, even though she doesn’t understand you yet. Have conversations throughout the day–during feeding, diapering and bathing, on errands, and during other daily routines. When you talk, use words to tell your baby the names of objects, to point out and describe what is happening, and to explain what will happen next. By talking, you explore the world together, teach your baby the sounds, rhythm, and purpose of language, and make a loving connection.
  • Take turns with your baby when you talk. Talk to your baby, but also give him opportunities to talk back to you. For babies who do not yet talk, this may mean exchanging facial expressions or making “raspberry” sounds back and forth. Try to establish a give-and-take pattern and let your baby know that you enjoy hearing what he has to say.
  • Talk and ask questions about what interests your baby. As babies get older, they will initiate conversations about things that interest them. Instead of trying to draw your baby’s conversation to new topics, try and extend conversation about the topics he chooses. If your baby shows interest in a particular toy, ask him to tell you what color it is and whether it is big or small rather than showing him another toy.

Next: Learn more about how babies learn to talk.

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