Ways to Promote Speech & Language Skills – 0 to 12 months

As new parents, you have many questions concerning your infant – sleep patterns, feeding, nutrition, diapering, breastfeeding and one worry may also include how to communicate with your child. This article will specifically target speech and language skills for ages 0 to 12 months.

It is never too early to promote speech and language! During this time period, your child is building their foundational skills for more advanced communication skills later on. They will begin turning their heads toward the voices of their family members as well as discriminating between familiar vs. non-familiar voices and friendly vs. angry voices. You will notice that your infant produces various cries to signify hunger, sleep, a wet diaper, etc. That in itself is one of the most basic forms of communication. Your baby will begin exploring with their lips and start producing raspberries. Early occurring sounds will include “coos” and by 6 months they will begin laughing in response to you. Your child will begin babbling using consonant-vowel combinations such as “papapa” or “madamada”. Later on during this period, your child will begin pointing and following basic commands (eg – “don’t touch”, “give me”, etc.).

During this series of articles, you have to keep in mind that every child develops at a different rate and speed. Use our strategies below to encourage speech and language. If at any point you feel that your child may have a delay do not hesitate to contact a speech-language pathologist.


  • Work on your child’s response to his or her name. Stand on the other side of the room and call their name to see if they turn their head. You can also make a loud sound such as clapping or playing an instrument to encourage locating a sound.
  • Be silly and imitate your child’s facial expressions and raspberries. Raspberries are the little bubbles that your child makes with their lips when exploring. You can even stick out your tongue and make up and down or side to side movements. The sillier you are the more of a reaction you will get from your child…it is a perfect time to bond 🙂
  • Talk to your baby from Day 1! Respond and take turns with your child’s coos and babbling. This sets up the building blocks for a basic conversation. If they say “badabada” you say “badabada” right back!
  • Play turn-taking games with your child such as peek-a-boo – cover your face with your hands and say “Peek-a-boo!” as you bring your hands down. See if they imitate the hand movement and laugh in response. They may even attempt saying it after repeating the game many times.
  • Early on, encourage production of bilabial sounds (or sounds made with both of the lips) including /p/, /b/, and /m/. You can also try sounds that require elevating the tip of the tongue such as /d/. Sounds like these are the easiest to produce because they are the most visible. Make sure you are making eye contact so that your child is concentrating on your face and the movements of your lips.
  • Always try to provide choices during mealtime, playtime, etc. For instance, if it is time to drink something, hold up their milk bottle and water to encourage pointing to what they want. When they do point, label that item as you are giving it to them “Milk. Oh you want the milk!”. Pointing is the stepping stone to verbally producing the word.
  • Use music as a tool to learn language. Play and sing songs with repetitive lines and movements such as “Wheels on the Bus”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “Old McDonald” to see if they hum along as it gets more familiar, imitate hand movements, or even begin to initiate sound effects (eg – animal sounds) or words! It is also a great opportunity to imitate varied intonation and volume (eg – raise your pitch by asking a question) and try to have your child imitate.
  • It is never too early to read with your little ones! It is important to set up a routine as well. Try reading a couple books before bedtime. Choose books that also have repetitive lines such as “Good Night Moon”, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, “Brown Bear Brown Bear”, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”, “Pete the Cat” series, etc. While reading, talk about what you see in the pictures and point while saying things like “Oh! There’s the bear!…Where is the bear? Show me”. This builds the foundation to following more complex commands. It is even a great time to start counting – count all the animals on the page or all the books you read. Counting can also be done when going up and down stairs.
  • Always label items, actions, and adjectives in your child’s environment in order for them to attach a name to objects, movements, and descriptors (eg – colors, speed, size). For example, point to the bus and say, “Look a bus! That’s a big yellow bus…it’s going fast!”. It is also beneficial to label actions as you are doing them. “You are going to slide! Ready Set…GO! Go down the slide…Weeee!.” Using repetitive phrases such as “ready set go” is also helpful, so that you child knows what to expect.
  • Do not hesitate to use basic sign language and gestures with your child. Research has indicated that signing can actually encourage language production. For example, if you want to target “gimme” withhold the highly motivating item, show your child how to tap their chest with their palm, and model the word “gimme”. You may need to physically prompt their hand at first, but once they gesture, immediately give them the desired item. With repetition, you will see that your child will begin saying “gimme” while using the gesture or sign. And speaking of gestures, have your words accompany gestures. For instance, model waving your hand when people leave for “bye-bye”.
  • At the later point of this stage, you will notice your child trying to produce words on their own such as “dada”, “mama”, “more”, “milk”, “bye-bye”, etc. At first your child may just be saying “dada” when exploring, but when they do say it, immediately reinforce them with the presence of “dada” or a picture of “dada” if dad is not present to solidify the connection that “dada” stands for his/her dad. If your child says one word, the key is to expand on that and make it 2+ words such as “Yes, dada is going bye-bye. Dada is going to work!”

Written By: Gift of Gab Resources
1-855-SPEAK-HELP www.giftofgabresources.com

Debbie Shiwbalak, M.A., CCC-SLP debbie@giftofgabresources.com

Alpin Rezvani, M.A., CCC-SLP alpin@giftofgabresources.com