Baby Development in the First Year of Life: Language and Communication - The Koch Family
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Baby Development in the First Year of Life: Language and Communication

During the first year of a baby's life they rapidly transition through numerous stages of development. Development of communication and interaction is often the most exciting. As a newborn your baby will primarily communicate through reflexive cries to indicate they are hungry, tired or uncomfortable. Over 12 months this communication develops into a responsive intentional use of first words such as 'mamma' or 'daddy'. The ability to communicate is essential and the following is a guide of age expected development in the first year of life.

6 Months

By 6 months old your baby will squeal in delight when he sees his mother or father. He has become very responsive when he recognises a familiar adult, possibly smiling, or moving his arms or vocalizing to people talking to him. Your baby is soothed by you holding or rocking him and has become a little more discriminating between familiar and unfamiliar adults.

By 6 months of age your child should demonstrate the following skills:

- Startle in response to noise,
- turn to where a sound is coming from - localising sound
- make different cries for different needs - tired cry versus a hungry cry
- watch your face as you talk to him
- he smiles / laughs in response to you smiling and laughing
- imitates other sounds such as 'ah, eh, ur, oh'
- cooing

9 Months

By 9 months of age your baby will protest vocally and through facial expressions when you take a toy off him. He is sitting independently and now has a different perspective on life. Being upright enables him the use of his hands and to explore toys. Some 9 month olds may have started to wave goodbye and are using specific gestures to communicate.

By 9 months of age your baby should demonstrate the following skills:

- Respond to his name
- respond to a telephone ringing or the dog barking
- understand the concept of being told 'no'
- uses gestures to communicate needs and wants
- plays social games with you eg. peek a boo
- enjoys being around people
- babble e.g. bababa, dadada
- repeats sounds

12 Months

By 12 months of age your baby has started communicating by combining words with facial expression and gesture. For example they will point to a bird and look at their mother and say 'mama'. Your baby will also start to play differently such as clapping hands or banging objects.

By 12 months your baby should demonstrate the following skills:

- Follows simple instructions e.g. come here, sit down
- looks to a toy that an adult points to eg. 'look at the ball' (point to the ball)
- uses three to five words frequently
- waves goodbye
- shakes head 'no'
- gains your attention by using noises, sounds, gestures and eye contact
- shows you toys
- responds to praise
- interested in simple books
- Combines lots of consonant and vowel sounds together e.g badaba, madu

Signs of a Possible Problem

By 12 months of age there are some signs that could indicate that your child may not be reaching the language milestones expected for his age.

All children do develop skills at their own rate but there are still a few signs that may indicate the need for professional advice.

- An infant who is not responding to sounds in the environment.
- An infant who is not vocalizing (cooing, babbling)
- A one year old who is not saying any single words ("mama" or "dada")
- Does not learn to use gestures, such as waving or shaking head by 12months
- Does not point to objects or pictures by 12months
- A 12month old who is not using consistent and frequent eye contact with familiar adults


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