The first three years of life are the most intensive period in terms of speech and language acquisition, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Speech and language skills develop most effectively in an environment where the youngster is stimulated by a wide variety of interesting sights and sounds and by constant exposure to the speech of parents, siblings, relatives and others, reports the NIDCD.
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By just six months of age, babies are beginning to recognise the basic sounds of their language, states the NIDCD. A baby will start off with "cooing" sounds, moving to repetitive syllables like "da, da." By the age of one, most children can say a few words and by 18 months can say up to 10 words.
The rate of language development is usually quite fast. By about the age of 24 months, most children know some 50 words. They will even be able to say some simple descriptive words such as "big" and can put together rudimentary sentences. However, strangers might not be able to understand the toddler very well.
Between the ages of four and five, children can usually say up to about 300 words, reported the NIDCD. Speech begins to get more understandable, although the child can stumble over difficult and long words. At five, the child can generally understand over 2,000 words. He can take part in a conversation and use sentences of eight words or more.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that parents can help with their child's speech and language development. It suggests talking to the baby during bathing and feeding times. Another tip is to expand on the single word your baby might use. For example, if he says "Daddy," you could say, "Where is Daddy? Daddy's at work, he'll be home soon." Reading to your child also helps language development, even if you are just talking about the pictures in the book.
A child's first 50 words will be simple and directly related to his own daily life. Names of family members, animals, foods, toys and clothes all tend to feature in this early vocabulary.
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