When Do Babies Start Talking? (2023)

Talking is one of the most exciting baby milestones. Most babies start talking at about 12 to 18 months old—if by "start talking," you mean "say their first word." There are many other speech and language milestones that happen both before and after that first word.

It's hard to wait all those months for our babies to begin telling us what is on their minds. After all, not being able to understand how they’re feeling is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of caring for little ones. And as we wait, we may worry: Why is it taking so long? Do those coos and babbles count as talking? What if my baby’s speech is delayed?

These questions (and more) are common. Let’s take a look at what to expect when it comes to your baby’s language skills, and what to do if you have any concerns.

Early Communication Skills

Even though it may not really seem like it, your baby is communicating with you as soon as they are born. Crying is the one of the only ways they have to communicate at first, but it’s certainly a powerful one.

In time, most parents are able to understand what their baby's cries mean, as well as how to meet their needs before the crying even starts. This back and forth between parent and child is the first way you teach your baby how to communicate and connect with you.

Besides crying, there are other ways your baby communicates with you in their first few months, and these are all precursors to language development. Here’s what to know about those early language milestones:

  • At two months, your baby will start turning their head to you when you speak; they may also start making cooing and gurgling sounds.
  • By four months, your baby will start babbling, and may even begin to copy some of the sounds and intonations you are making and to respond to your speech with sounds of their own (turn-taking).
  • By six months, there is more back and forth between you and your baby. Your baby may respond to your questions and requests with particular sounds, and they should also begin responding to their own names. At this age, their babbling will become more fine-tuned, with more “m” and “b” sounds. They may also squeal and blow "raspberries."
  • By nine months, your baby will look at you when you say their name and make lots of "mamama" and "bababa" sounds. They will raise their arms to tell you they want to be picked up.

Common First Words

Most babies will say their first word by the time they reach their first birthday. However, some babies may say their first word earlier or later than this.

It’s around this time that you will notice your baby’s receptive language skills—your baby understanding what you are saying—increasing as well. In fact, receptive skills often come before expressive (talking) skills. So if your baby points to things, understands simple instructions (“give Mommy the spoon”), and turns their head when you call out for them, these are very good signs of normal language development.

Common first words contain the “b,” “d,” and “m” sounds, which are easiest for your baby to say, so “mama” or “dada” are usually winners! But there is wide variation, with some babies saying more obscure first words than that.

Your baby may have certain sounds that mean certain things, or more than one thing. For example, “baba” may mean “bottle,” “banana,” and “baby.”

The way you can tell that a sound your baby says is meant to be a word is that they say the word in reference to a particular person or thing, and that they do some with some level of consistency.

At one year, babies can point and wave, and they may say words while pointing and gesturing—shaking their head while saying “no,” or waving while saying “bye.”

When Do Babies Talk in Sentences?

Babies usually start out by saying just a few words, and they may go weeks and months before adding new words to their vocabulary. However, between the ages of 18 months and two years, most babies have a language explosion, learning about one new word a week.

However, it’s closer to two years before babies really begin “talking”—i.e., stringing their words together into simple sentences. According to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), most two-year-olds will be able to point to pictures in books, people, and common objects and be able to name them.

They will be able to say between 50 and 100 words, and will start to combine words together to make two word phrases like “all done,” and “play ball.” Some two-year-olds begin to say three-word sentences, and others are speaking in paragraphs.

There is a wide range of "normal" here, but by two years old, you should see your child’s vocabulary increase, as well as their ability to understand what you are saying, follow simple instructions, and use words and gestures to communicate.

It's also important to note that children who are bilingual may seem delayed in speech as they can be confused as to which language to use. Pediatricians ask about languages spoken at home to differentiate between true delays and normal progression. (And being bilingual has many benefits!)

Auditory Discrimination in Children

Support Speech and Language Development

Babies are watching and listening all the time. Simply talking to them as you go about your day is one of the best ways to help them learn language. Reading books and singing songs together also promotes language development.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends activities like these to help babies and young toddlers learn to understand what you say and to speak for themselves.

  • As you are talking about what you are doing or the book you are reading, give your baby the words for colors, shapes, and numbers: "Here are three green apples in our bowl. One, two, three!"
  • Have conversations with your baby, even before they can talk. Respond to their sounds, laughs, and funny faces with your own, taking turns.
  • When your baby starts to learn and say words, add on to them. If they say "milk," you might say, "Would you like more milk? Here is milk in your blue cup."

Signs of Speech Delay

Remember, some babies speak later than others, and some speak earlier—and that's OK. Milestones are all estimates, and it’s OK if your baby falls outside them. It’s also possible for babies to have a delay in expressive speech (talking), but be on track when it comes to receptive speech (understanding).

Having a delay in language is actually quite common; according to the AAP, one in five children will learn to talk later than other children their age. Sometimes these delays resolve on their own.

However, it’s always good to discuss concerns about your child’s language development with your pediatrician so that they can assess the delay. Sometimes speech delays are a sign of hearing impairment, developmental delays, or autism spectrum disorder.

If your doctor has any concerns about your child’s speech delay, they may have you fill out a questionnaire about your child’s health and development, ask you a series of questions, and observe your child and interact with them to assess their language development.

They may also refer you to a hearing specialist, a speech-language pathologist, or a developmental therapist. If your child needs further assistance, your pediatrician or other specialist may refer your child for an evaluation and services provided by an early intervention program.

It may be stressful to bring up your concerns about your child’s language development, but it’s always better to tackle these things earlier than later.

If there are issues, initiating therapies as early as possible is essential. The earlier you bring up your concerns and see if your child needs intervention, the better. In most cases, when intervention is implemented early enough, it can make a significant difference in the child's abilities.

Therapy for Speech and Language Delays

A Word From Verywell

One of the most exciting parts of parenting a baby is witnessing them reach milestones. There is nothing more delightful than seeing your baby break out into a gummy smile for the first time, and nothing more thrilling (and anxiety-producing!) as watching your baby take their first steps. Your baby’s first babbles, their first word, and their first sentence—these are moments you will remember and savor forever.

Of course, with the anticipation of baby milestones also comes the worries. You worry that your baby isn’t meeting a milestone quickly enough, or that they haven’t mastered the milestone in the correct way. That’s why it’s important to always discuss your worries and concerns with your pediatrician—they can guide you on the right path, and soothe any anxieties that you might have.

3 Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC's developmental milestones,

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Language delays in toddlers: Information for parents.

  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Activities to encourage speech and language development.

When Do Babies Start Talking? (1)

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.

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At what age do babies start talking clearly? ›

Get ready for your heart to melt to the sounds of “mama” and “dada.” Babies say their first word around 12 months and will talk more clearly at about 18 months.

Is my baby not talking enough? ›

Call your doctor if your child: by 12 months: isn't using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye. by 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate. by 18 months: has trouble imitating sounds.

Is it normal for a 3 year old not to speak clearly? ›

Children develop at their own rate. If your child has a speech delay, it doesn't always mean something is wrong. You may simply have a late bloomer who'll be talking your ear off in no time. A speech delay can also be due to hearing loss or underlying neurological or developmental disorders.

Should a 2 year old be talking? ›

Between the ages of 2 and 3, most children: Speak in two- and three-word phrases or sentences. Use at least 200 words and as many as 1,000 words. Ask questions that start with who, what, where or why, such as "Where is mommy?"

How many words should a 12 month say? ›

Your child may now have an average of three clear words; for example 'mama', 'dada' and usually some familiar object name – for example, 'car' or 'drink'. It will help if you repeat the words back to your child to provide a clear model and shape to these early words.

How do I know if my child is gifted at age 2? ›

12 signs of a gifted child
  1. Quick learning. According to Louis, a telltale sign that a child is exceptionally bright for their age is how quickly they learn. ...
  2. Big vocabulary. ...
  3. Lots of curiosity. ...
  4. Eagerness to learn. ...
  5. Early reading. ...
  6. Talent for puzzles or patterns. ...
  7. Exceptional creativity. ...
  8. Advanced reasoning skills.
Aug 4, 2022

Can too much TV cause speech delay? ›

Studies report a link between TV and language development in young children. The more time kids spend watching television, the more slowly they learn to talk.

What age is considered delayed speech? ›

Your child may have a speech delay if they aren't able to do these things: Say simple words (such as “mama” or “dada”) either clearly or unclearly by 12 to 15 months of age. Understand simple words (such as “no” or “stop”) by 18 months of age. Talk in short sentences by 3 years of age.

What is the most common cause of speech delay? ›

It's often caused by brain damage before or during birth or in a child's first years. Often there can also be hearing issues and a disconnect between cognitive function and stimuli.

Is a 3 year old not talking ADHD? ›

A delay in speech or language is one of the earliest signs we have for kids that do go on to get a diagnosis of ADHD later in childhood. In this 2012 study, researchers found that two-thirds of the elementary-aged kids with ADHD had a speech or language delay at 18 months.

Why does my 3 year old not respond to questions? ›

This can happen for many reasons including: your child may not have heard you, he may not have understood the question, he may be processing your question and needs more wait time, he may not be able to access the words to answer your question, or he may even feel overwhelmed and not want to answer your question.

Why is my 20 month old not talking but understands everything? ›

If your child seems to hear, understand, and follow instructions despite not speaking much, and there are no other signs of delayed development, they may just be on their own timeline. In fact, one out of five children learns to talk and use a larger range of words later than other children their age.

Do toddlers with autism babble? ›

Delays and reductions in canonical babbling associated with autism. Evidence indicates that autism is associated with babbling differences. Two studies examining toddlers with ASD found reduced babbling overall.

Why is my 2 year old not talking but babbling? ›

There are several reasons why a 2-year-old is babbling but not talking. Sometimes, it may be because they are shy or introverted. It can also be related to hearing loss or other developmental delays. In most cases, however, the cause is unknown.

Is it OK if my 2 year old doesn't talk? ›

In general, there is no need to worry if your toddler isn't talking and seems "behind"—even if they are at the older end of that range. Of course, if your child is 19 months and still not talking, you may be concerned, but this too can be normal. It takes some children longer to master speech than others.

What counts as a word for a baby? ›

“Moo” for a cow or “Vroom vroom” for a car count as first words. As long as the sound is used as a substitute for a label (meaning they see a cat in a book, point to it, and say “meow!”) and they use that sound consistently, independently, and in an appropriate context, it counts.

How to teach a baby to talk? ›

Teach them about words that go together – for example, you could show them a ball, teddy and a rattle and then say the word 'toy'. Start using sounds with meaning (symbolic sounds), like saying "whoops" or "uh-oh" when you drop something accidentally, or saying "meow" while showing them a picture of a cat.

What are toddlers first words? ›

Most children speak their first word between 10 to 14 months of age. By the time your baby is a year old, he or she is probably saying between one to three words. They will be simple, and not complete words, but you will know what they mean. They may say “ma-ma,” or “da-da,” or try a name for a sibling, pet, or toy.

What is advanced for a 2 year old? ›

While most children at age 2 are experimenting with onomatopoeia (words that describe noises, like “beep beep!”) and starting to ask questions (“Where's Dada?”), a more advanced child might already be speaking in longer sentences with many verbs, such as, “I played and I jumped and I sang!” says Fujimoto.

Is my kid smart or gifted? ›

Using a standard IQ test with a score of 100 as the "norm," those children who earn 130 or above are considered gifted; 145 is profoundly gifted. In other instances, assessment may be based on a combination of intelligence test scores, creativity, and ability to focus on a task.

How do I know if my baby is gifted or just smart? ›

An extraordinary memory: If your child can easily remember even the smallest details, numbers, information, or memories, this is one of the most important indicators of giftedness. Advanced vocabulary: Expressing their thoughts clearly with a wide vocabulary is an indisputable sign of a gifted child.

Is CoComelon bad for toddlers to watch? ›

The main issue is too much screen time and children's shows with fast-paced sequences. Psychologist Dr. Melissa Dvorsky told the news outlet that some studies state that watching shows like CoComelon before the age of 2 can negatively impact executive functions at age 9, but that the exact cause is unknown.

Does CoComelon delay speech? ›

Is it CoComelon or the amount of screen time that affects children? Because it is suspected that CoComelon causes speech delay and tantrums, Children aged 2 years old and below should have no screen time of the show. The reason for this is that the first two years of life are a period of rapid development.

What are two signs of a possible speech delay? ›

Common symptoms of a language delay include:
  • not babbling by the age of 15 months.
  • not talking by the age of 2 years.
  • an inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3 years.
  • difficulty following directions.
  • poor pronunciation or articulation.
  • difficulty putting words together in a sentence.

What is late talking a symptom of? ›

And of course, late talking is one of the primary symptoms of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and for intellectual disability (which was formally known as mental retardation).

Do boys talk later than girls? ›

It is true that boys produce their first words and sentences later than girls. However, these differences are only in terms of a matter of a few months. There is a normal range within which children acquire certain language milestones.

Is late speech autism? ›

Children with autism often have speech delays, but speech delays alone do not mean your child has autism. Autistic speech delays usually occur along with other communication issues, such as not using gestures, not responding to their name, and not showing interest in connecting with people.

Can parents cause speech delay? ›

Delays can also be caused by neglect, abuse, or an event or circumstance that was really disruptive to development. These are atypical scenarios though that we rarely encounter. For the average parent doing their best, you can rest assured that your child's speech or language delay is definitely not your fault.

Will speech delay fix itself? ›

Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. They may resolve on their own or with a little extra help from family. It's important to encourage your child to "talk" to you with gestures or sounds and for you to spend lots of time playing with, reading to, and talking with your infant or toddler.

What is Einstein syndrome? ›

What is Einstein syndrome? Einstein syndrome is a condition where a child experiences late onset of language, or a late language emergence, but demonstrates giftedness in other areas of analytical thinking. A child with Einstein syndrome eventually speaks with no issues, but remains ahead of the curve in other areas.

Why is my child almost 3 and not talking? ›

So if your toddler is 2 or 3 years old and isn't yet talking, it's vital to go ahead and speak with their pediatrician, or with a speech-language pathologist. They will likely recommend a speech evaluation in order to assess your child's current abilities. Early intervention is so important in these situations.

What are the red flags for a 2 year old? ›

Hyperactivity or constant movement beyond regular playing. Frequent, unexplainable temper tantrums. Unusual fears or worries. Difficulty taking part in activities that are normal for your child's age.

Do autistic 3 year old talk? ›

Keep in mind that verbal communication varies greatly among children with autism. Some children who have autism may start using words earlier than other children, while others remain non verbal for years or even for life. On average, however, autistic children start forming words around 3 years of age.

What are the signs of autism in a 3 year old? ›

At 3 years of age, an autistic child may:
  • demonstrate delays or regression in speech and language skills.
  • speak in a flat or sing-song manner.
  • not speak at all.
  • avoid eye contact.
  • appear expressionless.
  • not answer questions appropriately.
  • repeat the words of others.
Jul 15, 2019

What questions should a 3 year old be able to answer? ›

3-Year-Old: A 3-year-old should be able to answer more complex questions and should be starting to ask basic “who”, “what”, “where” and “why” questions. 4-Year-Old: A 4-year-old should be able to ask and answer many questions, if not all question types.

Does pacifier delay speech? ›

Prolonged pacifier use can cause speech sound disorders and a speech delay! They can also cause a reverse swallow and a tongue thrust. A tongue thrust is when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth during speech and swallowing, which is caused by an open bite.

Why does my baby understand everything but doesn't talk? ›

The two most common reasons why are: A child is developing talking or pronunciation skills at a slower pace than their peers. A child is having trouble learning the coordination for making sounds for speech.

Can a child have speech delay and not be autistic? ›

While speech delays are very common among children with autism, they are common in children without autism as well.

Do babies with autism laugh? ›

Young children may express more voiced than unvoiced laughter, as they haven't yet learned to purposely laugh. The test group of autistic children laughed just about as often as the non-autistic kids, but the autistic children's laughter was 98 percent voiced, while non-autistic children produced both types.

Do babies with autism like to cuddle? ›

Children with ASD often need a hug, just like other children. Sometimes they need this much more than other children. But some children don't like to be touched. Respect their personal space.

Do autistic babies smile a lot? ›

Those who may be on the autism spectrum will mostly avoid any type of eye contact and will typically not smile or exhibit many facial expressions. Autistic children will also likely not be reactive to loud sounds and noises as neurotypical children would.

At what age should you worry about a child not talking? ›

Call your doctor if your child: by 12 months: isn't using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye. by 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate. by 18 months: has trouble imitating sounds.

How many words should a 2 year old say clearly? ›

How many words should a 2 year old say clearly? As a general rule of thumb, parents should listen for their 2 year old to say at least 100 different words that they can understand. It's okay if other people who spend time with your child can understand less, in fact that would be expected.

Is it normal for a 2 year old to only babble? ›

Is it normal for a 2 year old to still babble? Yes! It is expected that a 2 year old will continue to babble as they are learning to talk. 2 year olds should also say about 100 words on their own and be speaking in jargon (or gibberish) sometimes.

At what age do late talkers talk? ›

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), late talkers are toddlers (18 to 30 months old) who have a limited vocabulary for their age, but do not have any other developmental delays. Some late talkers may talk by three to five years of age.

What percentage of 2-year-olds don't talk? ›

Between 10 and 20 percent of 2-year-olds are late to develop language, with males three times more likely to fall into this group. Most actually don't have a speech or language disorder and are caught up by age 3.

What are the stages of a baby talking? ›

'Red flag' stages of speech development
By 6 monthsYour baby should be starting to babble (e.g. aahh, oohh).
By 12 monthsThey should be making sounds that are more like talking. Responding to familiar words.
By 18 monthsThey should be saying clear words and understanding requests (e.g. 'Give me the ball').
5 more rows

How many words should a 1 year old know? ›

Most children say their first word between the ages of 10-14 months old. A 1 year old (12 months) can say anywhere between 0-5 words. By the time a baby is 18 months old (technically also a 1 year old) they will be saying as many as 50 or more words. Yes, it's normal if your 12 month old hasn't said their first word.

What are signs of speech delay? ›

  • not babbling by the age of 15 months.
  • not talking by the age of 2 years.
  • an inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3 years.
  • difficulty following directions.
  • poor pronunciation or articulation.
  • difficulty putting words together in a sentence.
  • leaving words out of a sentence.

How can I stimulate my baby's speech? ›

Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
  1. Say sound like "ma," "da," and "ba." Try to get your baby to say them back to you.
  2. Look at your baby when they make sounds. ...
  3. Respond when your baby laughs or makes faces. ...
  4. Teach your baby to do what you do, like clapping your hands and playing peek-a-boo.

How can I encourage my baby to talk? ›

Teach them about words that go together – for example, you could show them a ball, teddy and a rattle and then say the word 'toy'. Start using sounds with meaning (symbolic sounds), like saying "whoops" or "uh-oh" when you drop something accidentally, or saying "meow" while showing them a picture of a cat.

What should a 2 year old speech be like? ›

At 24 months of age, your 2 year old should meet the following speech milestones: Be able to say sentences with at least two to four words. Use and understand at least 50 words. Follow simple instructions.

Should a 2 year old have clear speech? ›

By 24 months (two years), 50 to 75% of speech should be intelligible to familiar people. By 36 months (three years), 75 to 100% of speech should be intelligible to familiar people. By four years of age, a child should usually be understood, including by people who are unfamiliar to them.

What should a 2 year old know academically? ›

Says short sentences with two to four words. Points to things when they are named. Knows familiar body parts. Recognizes familiar people.

What milestones should a 12 month old have? ›

The typical 12-month-old:
  • Begins pretend play (such as pretending to drink from a cup)
  • Follows a fast moving object.
  • Responds to their name.
  • Can say momma, papa, and at least 1 or 2 other words.
  • Understands simple commands.
  • Tries to imitate animal sounds.
  • Connects names with objects.
Oct 31, 2022

What should a 1 year old know academically? ›

Brain development milestones at 1 year
  • He is copying movements and gestures.
  • Bangs objects together.
  • Drinks from a cup and uses other objects correctly.
  • Finds things that are hidden.
  • He looks at the right object when it is named.
  • Can follow simple directions and lets go of objects without help.

Which gender develops language skills first? ›

During the first years of life, girls on average acquire language faster than boys and have larger vocabulary.


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