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TalkTastic: Empowering Your Child's Speech Superpowers!

From the moment they make their first adorable sound to the proud day they confidently express their thoughts and feelings, a child's journey through speech development is a remarkable process. As fathers, we can play a crucial role in nurturing and supporting this essential aspect of our child's growth, which can empower them to express their needs and desires. This also lays the groundwork for their academic success, social interactions, and overall well-being.

For us parents, it can be both a joy and a source of stress to see your child start to speak their first words. Even while you’re celebrating each and every babble, questions can come up such as: is my baby speaking enough? When should I expect to hear their first words? Are they understanding me? When should I be concerned about my baby’s speech development (or lack thereof)?

Remember, a little encouragement, patience, and guidance go a long way in helping your child unlock the power of their words, ensuring they possess the skills needed to express themselves confidently and communicate effectively with the world around them. Every child develops language at a pace that is unique to them, but there are milestones you can look out for to make sure they’re on the right track. In this article, we will give you some patterns to look out for in your child to see if their language is developing at a normal pace, and practices you can use to encourage your child’s language development!

Babbling and ‘ba ba ba’s’: a roadmap

Wondering when your child will finally be able to say ‘dadda’? Here are some cues from Speech and Language UK, cited by NHS, to look out for as they grow older to make sure they’re on the right track.

0-6 months

In this first stage, babies are just getting used to the world around them and the sound of their own voice! Expect to hear a lot of cooing, gurgling, and squealing from these little ones. In addition, because everything is so new to them, they will likely be startled by loud noises, so be careful not to overwhelm them with particularly loud environments.

6-12 months

Excited about your baby babbling? By the time they are a year old, they will begin to string sounds together repeatedly, such as ‘no-no,’ expanding towards two-syllable ‘words.’ Gestures become much more used, as they will point at things to indicate their interest or to get your attention, and they begin to understand certain phrases if used with gestures, such as saying ‘up!’ with an upwards motion of the arms.

12-18 months

Even if the sounds they make aren’t fully developed into sentences and words yet, rest assured that by this age, your baby should be able to understand much more than their little mouths can communicate. Typically babies will be able to understand short phrases and questions, such as “Where’s Daddy?” and they will also start to imitate the actions of adults, like waving hello.

18-24 months

Children at this age will begin to copy many more words and sounds. More questions will be understood, such as “Where is your dolly?” Children will be able to communicate around 50 recognizable words, and will also start to utter short phrases, such as “Bye Daddy!” and “More juice!”

When should I be concerned?

Remember, even if your child does not strictly fall into these categories, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about; these are just general guidelines. However, there are a few key things to look out for: if your child has not spoken at least around 25 recognizable words by the time they are two years of age, you may need to speak to your health advisor. In addition, children will usually respond to noises in some way by the time they are 9 months of age. This can either take the form of body language, such as reaching, or utterances such as babbling; they will also be startled by loud noises, and if this is not the case, they may need to have their hearing checked.

Dad: A Speaking Superhero

Now that you know what to look for in your child’s language development, it’s time to empower your child to raise their voice! Here are some tips from the NHS on what you can do as a father to encourage and enhance your child’s language learning.

‘Goo-goo ga-ga?’: Be ready to make lots of sounds

Babies are still exploring how to use their voice and it’s important to encourage them in their vocal explorations! To set them up for conversation, imitate the sounds they make in response to them. This allows them to get used to the process of listening and responding used in conversation.

Let those vocal cords shine

Singing is also a helpful tool for tapping into communication with your baby. Speaking to them in a sing-song voice helps to keep their attention, while singing to them in general will help them get used to the rhythms of language. By a year old, babies begin to get excited when you sing to them—and don’t worry, unlike the judges on The Voice, your baby isn’t looking out for the quality of your singing!

Dinner conversations; take turns

When your child starts to use short phrases, you can expand upon them. For example, if your child says, “juice,” saying things like “juice please” or “more juice” will exemplify to your child how to string together short phrases. To exemplify taking turns in a conversation, an important part of communication that, according to 2018 research by Romeo et al., can help bolster the activation of the language center of your child’s brain, leave gaps in between your statements to allow time for your child to respond or say any sounds they’d like.

Talk, talk, talk

Lastly, in general, it is important not just for speech development but also for connection to just talk with and to your baby, and spend time sharing attention together. By shared attention, we mean sitting down and reading to your child, pointing at objects and looking at them together (labeling them verbally is even better), and keep those vocal cords working, modelling respectful and loving conversation.

By implementing the strategies and tips discussed in this article, you can empower your child to unlock the full potential of their communication skills, fostering their growth and setting them up for a lifetime of meaningful expression and most importantly, connection. Embrace this journey with enthusiasm and celebrate each milestone, knowing that your role as a supportive father makes a significant difference in your child's language development.


Further reading and key sources:

The Essential First Year: What Babies Need Parents to Know by Penelope Leach

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