Communication and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old
During these months, your baby might say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ for the first time, and will communicate using body language, like nodding and shaking his or her head. Your baby will pay even more attention to your words 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. They make more and more recognizable sounds, such as ‘ga,’ ‘ba,’ and ‘da.’ They may even stumble onto a real word like ‘mama,’ and will be thrilled at mom and dad's excitement.
Babies begin to express likes and dislikes with body language, nodding in agreement or wrinkling their nose with displeasure. They'll also begin to communicate what they want by pointing, crawling, and gesturing.
You'll know that your baby understands what you say when you ask: ‘Where's Daddy?’ and your little one looks his way, or you 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 firmly say, ‘NO!’
By the end of the first year, your baby should be responding well to simple requests from you (‘Wave bye-bye’) and should be making some valiant babbling attempts at real conversation.
What Should I Do?
Continue talking to your baby using names as well as repetitive word games, like ‘This little piggy.’ Point to a ball and ask ‘What's that?’ and pause before you provide the answer. Soon your baby will be pointing and saying ‘bah?’ as though asking a question.
Labeling simple 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, your little one is learning what familiar objects are called and storing this information away, just waiting 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
Some children master motor skills earlier and easier than language skills. Very active kids may decide to concentrate on language after they've mastered walking. Both activities are not likely to happen at the same time.
If your baby seems to be a late talker, this isn't necessarily a cause for concern, although kids should say at least one word by 12-15 months of age. Your baby should also learn to use gestures such as waving and should point to objects or pictures.
If your baby doesn't seem to be able to respond to the sound of his or her name being called or doesn't look around at loud noises, talk to your doctor.
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