How Many Words Should My Child Say by 12 Months?

Language milestones are like achievements that show how well a baby is learning to talk and understand. It’s not just about making sounds and saying words; the baby also needs to hear and understand what others are saying. Around your baby’s first birthday, you might eagerly await hearing their first words. However, don’t be surprised if their initial “words” are not precisely what you anticipated. You might start worrying and searching online about your 1-year-old’s speech development. Before you get too concerned, take a deep breath and discover what your baby’s first attempts at talking sound like.

When Do Babies Begin to Speak?

Babies usually start making cute sounds like “bah” or “dah” when they are 4 to 7 months old. They’re just trying out different loudness and pitch. They might say their first words when they’re about 12 months old. But not every baby talks at this age, and that’s perfectly fine, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. They emphasize that talking is a gradual process. It will be completed in small steps, and not all one-year-olds talk, and that’s okay.

Saying the First Word Between 10 and 14 Months

When your baby turns one, they might say one to three simple words like “ma-ma” or “da-da” to express themselves. If they’re not doing this for 12 months, it is okay if they make various sounds, try to talk and understand you. They should also use gestures, respond to their name, and stop when you say “no.” Playing peek-a-boo is likely something they enjoy.

It is exciting to witness your baby’s first words and steps, but the language development during this year can be fun, too. You can play games with your baby as they learn new words. Understanding your child becomes more accessible, and they understand you better, too. Kids feel proud when they learn new words and love telling you about them. Talking to your child and reading to them from around six months old will help them understand the language better.

How Do 12-month-olds Communicate Their Needs or Wants to You?

Babies who are about one year old don’t use many words yet, but they communicate using gestures and sounds. They might give you things when they need help or show you what they want by pointing or leading you. Even if they’re not talking much, they make different sounds to express if they’re happy or upset. Babies are excellent at learning words. Pay attention to see if your baby recognizes and understands the names of familiar people and things. When they are 12 months old, they might look at the person or object you mention, showing that they understand.

How Many Words Can a 12-month-old Say on Average?

When your baby turns one, the babbling sounds they’ve been practicing can start turning into recognizable words. At this age, any sound they consistently use for the same person, object, or event is considered a word. So, when they say “ba-ba” for a bottle, “moo” for milk, or “toe-toe” for a stroller, they are using words. Sometimes, these words happen by accident. If your baby says a sound that gets a big reaction from adults, like “ma,” they might repeat it because they see it makes you happy. That’s why many 1-year-olds end up calling a parent “mama” or “dada” by their first birthday. 

Not all one-year-old talkers begin by naming their grown-ups. A small report in the Journal of Child Language found that most of the little ones they studied said words like “this,” “that,” “here,” and “there” at one year old. Other common first words in American English include ball, bye, hi, no, dog, baby, woof woof, and banana. Research has also shown that certain first words are universal and appear in many languages. Examples of these universal first words include names for family members like mommy and daddy, social words like hi and bye, and sounds like woof woof and vroom.

When does a 12-month-old Reach Linguistic Milestones?

The AAP says that most one-year-olds:

  • Babble with different tones
  • Say “dada” and “mama”
  • Use exclamations like “Oh-oh!” or “wow!”
  • Try to copy words
  • Respond in some way when you talk to them or say “no.”
  • Use simple gestures like shaking their head for “no.”

The CDC is more cautious about 12-month language milestones, focusing on:

  • Waving “bye-bye”
  • Calling a parent “mama” or “dada” or another name
  • Pausing briefly when they hear “no” to show they understand.

This Month’s News: May We Speak?

At around 12 months, many toddlers can say three or four words like “mama,” “dada,” “ta ta” for thank you, “ba” for bottle or ball, and “bye-bye.” But it’s okay if your toddler can’t do that yet. Experts say she’s in the “passive” phase of learning language. This means she’s listening and learning from the words and speech around her, storing them for later use. Even if she can’t say clear words, she can still express herself using gestures (like reaching her arms out when she wants to be picked up), sounds, and body movements (like turning her head away from something she doesn’t like).

Why Am I Unable to Comprehend My One-year-old?

When your little one is learning to talk, it’s not going to be perfect. Their lips, tongue, throat, and brain are all figuring out how to work together to say even one word. In fact, when they are two years old, parents and caregivers can only understand about half of what they are saying. But don’t worry, by the time they turn 3, you’ll likely understand about 75% of their speech. 

What is understood by 12-month-olds?

Your one-year-old baby knows more than they can say out loud. According to Zero to Three, many 1-year-olds understand 25 or more words. Here is a peek at what is happening in their mind before they start speaking clearly.

Babies’ Familiarity with Conversation Basics

Right from the start, babies start to figure out how communication works. For example, when they cry, someone usually comes to help them. As they grow, they realize that when they make happy sounds, like cooing, someone responds with love and attention. This shows them the idea of taking turns in communication.

One-year-olds Can Connect Words to Actions

Your one-year-old is beginning to understand the meaning of words, phrases, and gestures. When you say things like “Let’s go outside,” “It’s time for a bath,” or “Where’s nana?” they will show that they know what you mean. They might walk towards the stroller, point to the bathtub, or indicate where their grandmother is. A study from 2021 found that 11- and 12-month-olds can recognize combinations of words, like “clap your hands,” even before they start speaking their first words.

The Brain of 12-month-olds “Practice” Speaking.

Talking to babies helps their brains learn how to move the muscles needed for speaking. Researchers at the University of Washington found that talking to babies activates the parts of the brain responsible for planning and coordinating these speech-related movements. This means that even before babies can speak, their brains are getting ready to form words.

What Symptoms of a Speech Delay Might a 12-month-old Have?

If your 1-year-old is not talking yet, it’s okay! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they are on track if your child is playing with different sounds and trying to say some words. However, if you notice your child is having trouble with speech and any of these sounds familiar, it is a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor for advice.

  • At 12 months, you are not moving hands or pointing.
  • At 18 months, trouble copying sounds.
  • At 18 months, I like using my hands more than talking.
  • At 18 months, they only say “mama” or “dada.”
  • At 18 months, I need help understanding simple words.
  • Between 18 and 24 months, I’m not saying two words together.
  • At two years old, they only copy words doesn’t say them by themselves.
  • At two years old, I can’t use words to say more than basic needs.

How You Can Help Your Children? 

If your little one starts to talk, help her learn more words by naming things and actions around her. Use clear and simple words, and speak enthusiastically—use a lively tone. Babies pay more attention to your voice and learn better when you do this. Avoid using baby talk or made-up words like “doggy-woggy” because it can make it harder for them to learn the language.

When you put your child in the car seat, talk to her about where you’re going. At the grocery store, point out things like bananas or milk and say, “Let’s get some bananas” or “Here is the milk.” Even if she can’t respond much, talking to her makes her feel involved and interested in what is happening. Singing songs, like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Wheels on the Bus,” with gestures can also make talking and music fun for her. When your child talks to you, listen carefully, like you understand every word. Look at them, smile, and nod while they talk. This will make them want to tell you more. It also helps them learn to listen when others are talking.

Even if your 12-month-old doesn’t say many words, she can still communicate using gestures. Babies as young as 12 months can wave goodbye, blow kisses, and nod or shake their heads to indicate yes or no. They learn these gestures by watching you. Recent research suggests that children can connect many gestures to different words, but it’s your job to teach them.

If your toddler seems frustrated because she can’t express her needs verbally, try creating hand signs to help her. For example, you can hold your thumb to your mouth to signal the word “drink.” For a few days, show her the gesture whenever you give her a cup and say the word simultaneously. After a few days, she might surprise you by using the sign herself to ask for a drink. Teaching your toddler these signs can be helpful for communication.

Pay Close Attention to their Conversation

Your 12-month-old is paying close attention to how you talk and what you say. It might sound like they are conversing when they babble, even though they’re not using actual words. Your children might respond with babbling and gestures when you ask them something, showing they understand you. Watch how they react when you say a “No” to anything versus a softer tone. 

If you see a difference in their reaction, they’re learning that how you say things is essential for communication. When kids are around 12 months old, they start paying close attention to things and realizing that objects don’t disappear just because they can’t see them. They are figuring out that toys still exist even when not visible. So, “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply anymore.

You can check if your child understands this concept by rolling a toy under the couch and seeing if they look in the right place for it. You can also hide a stuffed animal under a blanket for them to find. But be careful because kids are getting better at solving problems at this age. They might try fitting things together, turning switches on, or twisting knobs. Since they can’t always recognize danger, make sure your home is safe for them by childproofing it.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to appreciate and honor each child’s language-learning journey. Every child is unique, and their path to language development is remarkable. Recognizing and celebrating these differences helps create a positive environment for growth. Understanding the continuum of language development is crucial. This means acknowledging that language skills evolve, with each child progressing at their own pace. 

By acknowledging this continuum, we can better support children’s linguistic development. Simple and practical approaches to teaching and learning can make a significant difference in fostering a positive language experience for every child. Ultimately, embracing and celebrating the diversity of language journeys contributes to a more inclusive and enriching educational environment.