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Baby Steps: Language Explosion!

During his first haircut, my son Nathan began screaming "Die! Die! Die!" at the kindly barber. While my 15-month-old may have, at some level, wished ill upon the poor man, all he really meant to say was "Bye! Bye! Bye!" as in, "I need to leave right now." Yes, toddlers' budding speech can be confusing. Here's a quick primer:

Enjoy his use of "free speech." Relish the enchanting hilarity of his language. While some of your tot's words will make no sense, others will be thrillingly familiar (like mama and dada). Over the next several months, your baby's vocabulary will explode, reaching nearly 200 words by the time he's 21 months.

The power of "no!" One word that seems to get a lot of airtime early on is no. This might be because no is often said alone, and words your baby hears in isolation are the ones he's most likely to repeat. Of course, you may also hear no spoken regularly because your toddler wants to communicate that he's the boss!

Baby talk ain't perfect. Pun intended. Do your best not to correct your baby's errors. They will go away in time and with practice, and can't be helped. Even in different languages, early mispronunciations are similar. For example, in English, Hindi, and German, toddlers often say t instead of k (tar instead of car). If your baby is lucky enough to live in a multilingual household, or if he was recently adopted from abroad, it might be a little longer before you hear those first words. Still, if you don't start hearing them soon after his first birthday, talk to your pediatrician.

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