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Talking To Your Baby

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The Magic of Mama: 9 to 12 months

Somewhere around 12 months your baby might delight you by saying “mama.” He's probably thrown those syllables together before, but now he knows what it means. Saying these early words is the result of a gradual process. “Babies understand — well before they actually speak — that things have names,” explains Roberta Golinkoff Ph.D., director of the University of Delaware Infant Language Project and co-author of How Babies Talk.

As your little one practices random syllables (and often hears you say “mama loves you”) he finally utters the word. When you reward him with your joyous response, he puts those syllables together again and again. Other early words are likely to be nouns as well, and while you can't really rush things, you can support early vocabulary using these tips:

Label his likes Since babbling increases when he's ex-cited, step in to name the thing that's making him happy. (“Bananas! You like the bananas?”)

Read to him Reading offers lots of opportunities to label things again, and babies love repetition and predictability.

Tune up Captivate him with songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” that have engaging tunes that also teach words and concepts.

Fact: Babies are drawn to words with repetitive syllables, which may explain why mama, dada and bye-bye are among baby's first words.

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