How to Encourage Speech in a Baby

Three Parts:Creating a Speech Learning EnvironmentUsing Daily Speech ActivitiesOvercoming Difficulties

Language development is a huge part of a child’s progress and learning to speak is vital to their social developing, learning, and understanding. Help your baby along using encouragement and daily activities to put their speech on the fast track.

Part 1
Creating a Speech Learning Environment

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    Start speech activities early. From the day your child is born, begin speaking to him and making eye contact to build a solid relationship. Your baby will recognize the sound of your voice from hearing it inside the womb.
    • You may sound a little different outside the womb, but the association is still there and your voice can be a calming influence to the baby.
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    Allow your baby to listen to you speak. Babies learn by observing: a simple conversation with your newborn can have great benefits.
    • As you talk to them, they will learn the importance of making different sounds and will begin to experiment with their own speech.
    • Even being around speech can be helpful for newborns. Talk to other adults at a normal volume so your baby can hear what a real conversation sounds like.
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    Make your home a safe, encouraging environment. Turning your home into a calm location where your baby feels safe to learn and explore will help give them confidence to learn to talk.
    • Background noise can distract a baby and make it difficult for them to focus on the words and sounds around them. Turn off the TV and eliminate unnecessary background noise to help your baby focus on your activities with them.
    • If you have older children, you can designate certain areas, such as the nursery, or certain times of day as “baby time”, where the older children work on quiet activities and you focus on speech development with your baby in a calm environment.
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    Limit the baby's use of a pacifier. As your baby gets older and shows more interest in talking, try to limit the use of a pacifier, which makes it more difficult for a child to make sounds or talk. This is easier said than done, but can have great benefits in the long run.
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    Start to put words in context. As your baby grows and shows more of an interest in their surroundings, start putting things in context. Point out things around you, such as animals, simple items, or family members. This teaches an association between the word and the item itself.
    • It takes a vocabulary of around 100 words before a baby will begin stringing them together in a sentence, which normally happens around age two. Adding a few words to their vocabulary each day will encourage them to speak freely and improve their understanding.
    • Point out sounds around you, such as a car starting or a dog barking to teach your baby about other sounds beyond speech and further teach the association between sounds and words.

Part 2
Using Daily Speech Activities

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    Constantly talk to your baby and encourage responses. Have a conversation with your baby multiple times a day and use his or her name repeatedly. Encourage any sounds they make, even if it is an unintelligible baby noise. In the early stages, any noise they make is speech progress.
    • As your baby begins to make more sounds, ask questions and wait for their responses, which teaches the order of a conversation and the cadence of speech. You can also model conversation by asking a question and waiting for a response, but then answering the question yourself if the baby doesn’t answer.
    • Provide a running commentary of daily actions, such as what you are doing as you get ready for the day or what you see on a walk. Give your baby quiet time as well, to allow him or her to experiment with her body and her voice.
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    Mimic any noises your baby makes. Make a big deal out of any sounds your baby makes. Mimicking their baby noises encourages them to keep experimenting with sounds and provides some needed entertainment for your baby.
    • Baby talk can be helpful for babies, but only in small doses. Repetitive sounds, like mama or dada, can help a child learn to speak, but some research points to it slowing down vocabulary development.
    • Use baby words during certain activities and use regular, slow speech during other activities to show your child real patterns in speech.
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    Address your baby by name while making eye contact. To gain your baby’s attention, when addressing them, say their name in a slow way - while maintaining eye contact -to help them recognize it.
    • This will encourage them to respond when being called, even if it is initially with just a sound.
    • Do this when carrying out any activity with them, whether it is giving them a bath, feeding them or just playing with them.
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    Read to your baby. Reading is a powerful tool in language development and one of the most important things parents can do with their children. Books not only build a relationship between you and your baby, but also provide them with colorful pictures to stimulate the brain and words to add to their vocabulary.
    • Establish a habit of reading to your child daily from an early age. For newborns, it doesn’t even matter what book you are reading; an adult novel will have the same meaning to them as the phone book. As babies get older and more aware, introduce nursery rhymes, board books, and interactive picture books.
    • Babies will respond more to certain books depending on their personality. Read the same books over and over to solidify the message and help your baby understand the words.
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    Sing to your baby. Singing and doing hand games with your baby is also incredibly beneficial for their speech development. Involve them with action songs such as “Row, Row Your Boat” and “Patty Cake”. As your child associates words with actions, they will begin to communicate even if they can’t yet speak.
    • For example, if you do a hand game that involves a waving motion along with the word “hello”, your baby may soon be able to wave to communicate hello without actually saying the word.
    • It may take a while for the movement association to grow, but the movement and song will help your baby’s brain development in multiple ways.

Part 3
Overcoming Difficulties

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    Use positive affirmations. Learning to talk is difficult. Reward any progress your baby makes, and resist the urge to correct them when they mispronounce something.
    • For example, when your baby calls a dog a “da”, respond with a positive affirmation and the correct word, such as “Yes, that is a dog”. This will help your child learn the right word but won’t scare them into being afraid to try to talk.
    • Any sounds or noise is progress—don’t expect your child to be able to talk overnight, but encourage them every day as they explore the world around them.
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    Understand that some children have more difficulty learning to speak than others. Participating in speech-building activities helps a baby learn to speak, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will happen. Some children have a more difficult time learning new words or making the appropriate sounds.
    • When this happens, continue working with your child and be patient as they learn. If your baby or toddler is frustrated that they can’t express themselves, visit a speech therapist for professional help.
    • Your pediatrician or a speech professional can give guidance on how to best handle the individual situation.


Developing a vocabulary and learning the skills to communicate are vital aspects of your baby’s childhood.

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Categories: Babies and Infants