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When Do Babies Start Talking? Your 1-Year-Old's Language Milestones

Between 12 and 24 months, your babbling baby will turn into a chatterbox. Is your little one on track to meet these language milestones?



Your baby's cries and laughs have given way to enthusiastic babbles, buzzes and hums. You're hoping that their first word might be "mama," and you're waiting patiently for them to say it. Just when do babies start talking? Between 12 and 14 months old, your child's language development will flourish with a boosted vocabulary and the ability to understand and communicate with others.

"We're naturally wired for verbal communication," says Kimberly Scanlon, a speech therapist and author of "My Toddler Talks." "Your child should go from having about one to a few words at a year old to between 200 and 300 words at 2."

Although children's development stages are fairly consistent, the exact age at which they hit these milestones varies considerably, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Any form of communication -- babbling, pointing to a toy or using simple sentences -- means your baby is on the road to talking, even if full words aren't coming out yet.

Read  our guide to developmental milestones for kids

Your Chatty Child

Between ages 1 and 2, your little one's language skills are blossoming. You and your child are both excited about their newfound ability to communicate, and your daily interactions become less one-sided and more animated. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child will most likely be able to point to body parts, familiar people or objects when asked. At this age, your tot can follow simple commands and understand short questions.

Though they'll still be squirmy, your child will start to listen to and understand simple stories, songs and rhymes. They'll also demonstrate that they understand by pointing to pictures in a book when they are named, taking story time to a whole new interactive level.

You'll notice your little one chatting more and more. They'll add new words to their vocabulary each month and can even ask some one- or two-word questions, such as "What's that?" They'll be able to string together simple phrases to express what they want or need, like "my train." They'll also start parroting phrases said by people around them, which is vital to learning new words.

How Can You Help?

Though pediatricians say these are the basic milestones most children should reach by age 2, there are many possible answers to the question "When do babies start talking?" "We're all born with a developmental timetable," says Betsy Brown Braun, author of "Just Tell Me What to Say" and a child development and behavior specialist, "and you don't get to set it." She says that parents should be less concerned with when children check off these achievements, and instead focus on seeing steady developmental progress. "The variation in their language is tremendous," Braun says, "but also remember that communication is more important than articulation."

Communicating could be as simple as a grunt from your child or a tug on your shirt as they guide you to what they want. Fostering that communication through constant chatter will help your child develop language skills. "Narrate whatever you're doing," Braun says. "Ask questions and engage your child in conversation." But remember that baby talk isn't helpful when you're trying to help your tot find their voice. Rather than tailoring your language to your children, "Talk to them like they are a person," Braun says. When you're not talking to your kids about the world around them, you should be reading to your child. "Even when they're infants," says Braun, "read everything to them."

Scanlon suggests giving your toddler options when you're talking to them, gently guiding them to use new words. "Give them choices," she says. "Provide choice questions that provide models of the potential target words for the child to imitate." For example, instead of asking if your tot wants their doll -- which they could answer with a simple shake or nod of their head -- ask if they would like their doll or their blocks. Giving choices makes it easier for your child to imitate and repeat the new words.

Though parents and caregivers might worry about if their kids are hitting all their language milestones, Braun says it's best to put your worry aside and focus on connection. But if worry gets the best of you, Scanlon says it can be helpful keep a journal of your child's language development, tracking what they are saying and when. "This allows [you] to more accurately measure progress, note any changes," she says, "and most importantly feel empowered. 'Yes, I care, and I am doing something about it.'"

For more on milestones, read this  Overview of Milestones for 1 Year Olds .

Kimberly DeMucha Kalil is a freelance journalist and software consultant living in Southern Arizona with her husband and two children. Most days you can find her on Twitter @kimbely_kalil talking about how wonderful her children are.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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