How Baby’s Psyching Himself Up for Those First Words

ByMadeline Schmitz
Published
Feb 2016
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Photo: Shutterstock/The Bump

Even if baby can’t respond to you, that doesn’t mean he’s not listening to you and mentally practicing the words you say when you’re talking to him. Most babies start talking around one year, but the brain areas that are associated with speech planning light up around seven months , according to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This means that every time you say “mama” or “bottle” or “puppy,” baby is memorizing the way the words sound and is practicing them in his head.

Babies as young as six months can recognize words — especially those that they hear often. By seven months, babies can determine whether the language they’re hearing is their native language or a foreign one. Because their brains are working so hard to understand language at this young age, it’s too much to ask for them to respond. They just aren’t ready yet! In a few months, however, they’ll be babbling away.

Researchers at the University of Washington studied 57 babies who were either seven months or 11 months old. When listening to basic syllables like “da” or “ma,” the areas that plan speech movement lit up in their brains, even through they didn’t repeat the syllables back to the researchers. Just hearing conversation helps babies prepare to talk themselves , researchers asserted.

Keep talking to baby, and use the same words frequently. He’s trying really hard to remember what you’re saying and to figure out how to make the sounds himself.

Has your baby started talking yet? 

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