Birth: Babies are born with the ability to cry through which they communicate various needs. Parents should be talking to their baby to expose them to language, tones of voice, and to begin to teach that communication is reciprocal. Babies are born with the ability to imitate and this can be noted from 6-8 weeks old when they develop spontaneous and reflexive smiles. Those reflexive facial features and imitation can be evidence of mirror neurons firing telling the brain to match what others are doing. This is very typical and developmentally appropriate.
0-3 months: Babies begin to explore different sounds, tones of voice, and cries. They will also develop different pitches or cries for different needs. Pitches may be higher or lower depending on what they assign to being hungry or wet. Listen for varying tonal patterns. Babies on the spectrum may not vary their cries that much if at all, research shows.
4-6 months: Babies will begin to babble at this age. They may play with speech-like sounds and begin to use "p", "b", and "m" sounds. Their babble may be in response to being talked to, they may begin to show emotions and respond to pointing. At 4 months their eye gaze is purposeful and beginning to show first signs of socializing behaviors.
7-12 months: The sounds babies will make will begin to change and contain more consonants. A first word may be heard such as, "byebye" "mama" or "doggy". Their receptive language at one year should help them find things you label (go get...) and act out actions.
1-2 years: Toddlers will be adding more words to their vocabulary and should be putting two words together. They may begin asking questions, "what that?" or "where ball?" They should be labeling everything and asking what things are. This is a great time to introduce nursey rhymes and begin modeling how to be a reader (parents can read to their baby beginning in the early months, and should).
2-3 years: Vocabulary is exploding! Sentences are formed and used regularly. Toddlers are able to get your attention and share it with objects, naming, commenting, and continuing to ask questions. Attention is joint and shared with eye contact, pointing, and gesturing. Conversations are starting, imaginary play happens, and one of my favorite ways to teach language, singing, is happening. Easy, natural things that parents can engage in.
3-4 years: Kids should be using 4-5+ word sentences. They begin to recall things that happened to them and share their experiences. Speech is typically fluent and clear (certain sounds are not developmentally supposed to be completely accurate until 8-9 years of age, so some errors are normal). Discussions about things can occur to expand language between parents and children.
4-5 years: Children are now speaking clearly and fluently using detailed sentences. Most sounds are correct. Play skills should be continued to encouraged.
And finally, research has been showing for YEARS that screen time for babies and toddlers under the age of 2 is NOT appropriate or healthy for their growing brains. After 2, in moderation, but babies do NOT need to be watching TV or using an iPad. Save that wonderful technology for when their brain is not growing so fast! Exposure too early teaches children to expect immediate gratification and impacts their ability to problem solve when things don't happen IMMEDIATELY! AHHHHH! Do not do that to your tiny ones! :) Ok, I'm being dramatic, but I have to say my background is in early childhood. I've done the research. I've read countless studies and I have seen children who do not learn coping skills naturally and become frustrated and dependent upon that immediate gratification. I have been one of the first teachers aside from parents to help teach that tricky skill of patience (waiting) and problem solving for children 3-5. It's a lot of work! But, the reward is fostering life skills so the pay off completely outweighs the time and energy put in. After 2 years moderate away. Under 2, let them play, let them watch you, and let them babble. TVs do not talk back and forth. TVs and iPad games do not teach reciprocity. Sure, they have some labeling and educational content, but it is no substitute for human contact and interaction. Last bit of research, if you happen to be a household that has the TV as background noise, children learn to "tune out" noises. Guess what else they are tuning out? You. It's not purposeful, but they have inadvertently learned to place language (including your voice at times) in that white noise category.
The purpose of our blog is to help, to give tips, and to educate. The three of us have done the work, read the research and taught hundreds of kids. It's still your choice how to parent. We just continue to share what we have learned and hope that families achieve a balance that works for them and most importantly is of the child's best interest.
As Rans would say, "the bottom line is" keep talking, keep engaging, and keep interacting!
Written by: Megan McQuillan