Speech Development From Birth: First Lessons

In the first year of life, a baby has a great opportunity to learn new information and develop speech. This is inherent in nature. All a mother has to do is to help her baby with the right games for his age. Then the lessons will bring him both benefit and joy.

We’re working on speech development. 1-3 months

A baby’s first vocal expressions are crying. A baby cries to attract attention, to express discomfort or to ask for help. Crying is an important skill that your baby needs to be able to communicate his or her needs and helps your baby adjust to these changing circumstances. At 1.5 months of age, one of the forms of expression of feelings and needs will be a smile. The accompanying joyful vocalizations are the baby’s pre-speech communication, which allows it to maintain attention and prolong contact with adults. The baby will be humming – the process of pronouncing extended vowel sounds (a, u, y) and combining vowel and consonant sounds (agu, gu, ga, ha, ky, khy) – by the age of 3 months.

A world of emotions. Bend over your baby and with the help of mimics, gestures and intonation try to express various emotional states (joy, surprise). You will notice how your baby is scrutinizing your face, listening to the intonation of your voice. It may even copy your facial expressions and hum. These expressions and sounds are the first steps in communicating with your baby and will contribute to his/her social-emotional development and speech formation.

Hummingbirds, nursery rhymes and songs. Read aloud to your child small rhymes and nursery rhymes, or sing a nursery song. It is important to look at the baby, pronounce the words clearly and vary intonation. Pay attention: the baby froze, listening to your voice, watching closely as you move your lips, pronouncing the phrases. Here he animatedly moved his hands and feet – happy with your communication with him. Such interaction with a child contributes to the accumulation of vocabulary. Here, for example, a nursery rhyme:

Oh, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo,

The shepherd lost his doo-doo.

And I found the doo-doo,

I gave it to the shepherdess.

Let’s talk, let’s talk, let’s talk. Bend over the baby and start talking to him. Babies will try to respond to you in their own language – hum. Repeat the sounds it makes. Then respond to your baby’s humming as if you understand what he is saying. Such an exercise will stimulate the baby to respond to the adult’s verbal influence, encourage the baby to hum and help form the next stages of speech development. 

“I’ll tell you…”. Children have a keen sense of the nuances of speech and the timbre of the other person’s voice. So the easiest thing you can do to develop your child’s speech is to talk to them more often, in person. 

Change the intonation from narrative to questioning, speak louder or louder. Talk to him when you are walking around the room, not just next to him. Your baby will turn his head towards your voice. Name all the objects you show him, your actions and those of others, and comment on what is happening. Say the words clearly and repeat the phrases several times. 

Look at our child development calendar 

Working on speech development. 3-6 months

At this age your baby listens to the sounds around it, takes an interest in them and repeats them. The baby will also recognise that these are the sounds it makes. Your child should be encouraged to make the sounds and sound combinations. 

“Tongue-talker. Take your baby in your arms. Look it in the eyes and make different funny sounds with your tongue. Then hide your tongue. Repeat the same action and make different sounds. Children usually try to mimic an adult by sticking out their tongue and making a few of the sounds they hear. This trains their articulation apparatus and develops the mobility of the lips and tongue. During play, the child replenishes its supply of sounds, tries to pronounce them more often and begins to communicate with the adult.

“Echo. Lean over your baby or hold him in your arms so he can see your face. Talk to it, stimulate its vocal activity and repeat the sounds it makes like an echo. The baby will start humming back – a kind of ‘conversation’ begins. The pronunciation of different sounds and sound combinations helps to improve the child’s speech skills. 

“The Horned Goat is Coming. This game combines several functions – speech, motor and tactile. Fold your fingers in a certain way and easily tickle your baby while saying a rhyme:

The horned goat is coming.

Follow the little ones.

Who doesn’t eat porridge, who doesn’t drink milk,

He gets gored, he gets gored, he gets gored!

Your baby enjoys the process and can laugh out loud when you tickle him or her. This two-way communication activates the speech centers of the brain, promoting speech development. 

Working on speech development. 6-9 months

This is when the next stage of speech development is reached – babbling. The baby goes through the syllable chain “pah-pah-pah”, “ka-ka-kah”, “ma-ah”, “wah-ah”, repeats them and listens to the sounds pronounced. The babbling stage lasts until 11 months. Gradually, babbling becomes more complex, with new syllables and sound combinations.

The speech centers of the brain can be activated through the receptors on the fingertips. Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to improving the fine motor skills of the hands in lessons with the child.

At this age it is a good time to start reading to the baby. Books should be chosen with various extras such as rattles, Velcro, pockets, squeakers, etc. These toys retain your baby’s attention and encourage the development of fine motor skills.

Read and play. Expand your baby’s conceptual vocabulary. Looking at pictures in books and reading short stories and poems (e.g., A. Barto) will help. For lessons, choose books with bright, clear and understandable illustrations. Have a toy, such as a rabbit, and a book with a picture of it. Show the toy and the picture: “Here’s a bunny, and this is a bunny too. Such activities enrich your child’s vocabulary and familiarize it with new concepts and names of objects and phenomena.

Finger games. Already at this age, you can teach your child to paint. But instead of brushes, let your child’s hands and fingers leave traces on the paper. 

Make modeling with your baby out of plasticine: roll out different shapes and sizes of plastic, and let your baby flatten them with his/her fingers.

Purchase educational toys or centers for exercising fine motor skills – with buttons, holes, textured surfaces and musical or vocal tracks. 

New friend. Choose a character – glove puppet, bibabo or soft toy – to communicate with your child. You can introduce your baby to the object world and new words on behalf of this character. Let the toy Pinocchio show baby pictures in a book, talk about new items, ask questions, and ask the child to repeat any action. Have a dialogue with your child, addressing him on behalf of the doll. Encourage your baby’s vocal activity, encouraging him to respond and interact with the character. 

Working on speech development. 9-12 months

At this age, the baby actively imitates gestures, facial expressions and the different sounds it hears from adults (laughter, coughing, clicking of tongue). Imitating actions and sounds develops into imitating words as the infant learns not only to pronounce the sounds but also to understand the language spoken to it. This is when babbling sets in: The infant speaks whole tirades with changing intonation. 

“Tell me a story, Mummy!”. It’s time for fairy tales. You can choose Russian folk ones: “Teremok”, “Repka”, “Kolobok”, “Three Bears”. Babies already recognize many animals, and can be at the request of an adult to point to the image of an animal named by you. Carefully look at the pictures, ask him, for example: “Where’s the bear?” – and your toddler will point to the right picture. Telling the story, respect the timbre of voice and intonation of each character – mouse says a small voice: “Pee-pee”, the bear – a rude: “Woo-ooo”. 

Ask your toddler to repeat after you, in which voice the animals talk. Imitation games are good articulation exercises for language development. 

Tongue training. This is a speech therapy exercise to train your baby’s mouth and lips and the muscles of the articulation system. Make funny faces and grimaces and encourage your child to repeat after you. Show your baby’s tongue and ask them to show you theirs. Stretch out your lips in a big smile and encourage your baby to smile the same way. Whistles and toy blowpipes are good for practicing your baby’s cheeks, lips and tongue. Teach your child how to blow a big whistle or pipe and you’ll have them excited about the sound effect.

“Repeat after Mummy. Lean over your toddler so he can see your lips move as you say the words. Encourage your baby to repeat the sounds after you:


A pocket full of posies

A tissue, a tissue

We all fall down

Pronounce the sounds in your child’s babbling, gradually introducing new sound combinations: “ta”, “da”, “wah”, which he is not yet using. You will notice how sensitive the child is to the new sounds, listening and looking at the speaker’s face. 

Encouraging your child to talk is just as important as telling him. Even if you don’t understand any of the words he says yet, listen carefully and respond with, “Oh, how interesting!” or, “Do you think so?” thus encouraging him to try new speech experiments. All your efforts at speech development will be rewarded with your baby’s first words. 

Child development calendar by month

Speech skills at 1 year

Your baby is repeating sounds, syllables and one-syllable words.

Is responding to its name.

The toddler’s active vocabulary consists of 10 to 20-25 words. These are mainly simplified or sound-imitating words.

The passive vocabulary is enriched: the child knows the names of many objects, understands and fulfills adults’ requests.

The infant listens attentively to the adult and then repeats chains of simple words and sounds.

Communication between child and adult begins to build up through speech.

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Author: Susan Grundy

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