Baby’s language and speech development.


Before reading this section it is advisable to read the section titled ENJOYING SOUNDS, MUSIC AND LANGUAGES. Baby’s ability to speak and sing is in many ways based on how well she enjoys and experiences sounds, music and languages. 

Baby’s OMSDEP. Her language and speech intentions:

Baby wants to listen to all the sounds in her environment and understand what they mean and how they fit together. 

When baby feels like crying she wants to be made safe and to be allowed to cry naturally without interruption while she heals from her hurting experience. 

Baby gets ready:

It would be very unusual for baby to speak for at least six months yet, but the foundations for speaking are being laid down from birth, and perhaps even before birth. Baby can hear from at least the time of birth and she is gathering language information throughout every moment of every day when people are talking within her hearing range. Her hearing range, incidentally, is not much less than an adult’s. 

Compared to adults baby has an extraordinary ability to learn facts, and her brain quickly grows and organises itself to process those facts and remember them for future reference. Everything she hears, be it humans speaking their native language, dogs barking or music playing will pass into her brain to be used as part of her speaking OMSDEP; to help her to learn to speak. 

At this stage baby’s own self development and education program to learn to speak is twofold:

She is listening to all that is said and is organising and storing information about language in her brain. 

She is also learning to use her lungs to push air up through her neck and out of her mouth. Simultaneously she is learning to adjust her throat, tongue and mouth to make the air vibrate as sound.

Listening and crying:

At this stage, during the first month after birth, baby is more involved in point one above: Listening to, organising and storing information in preparation for speech. She demonstrates less interest in point two at this stage but she is, nevertheless, still practicing making sounds when she cries for food when she is hungry or needs other attention. Of course, baby does not simply decide to cry when she wants to practice making sounds. But when she does need to cry, and does so, she begins to develop the ability to make sounds when she wants to. At this very fundamental level (hunger and safety needs) she soon learns that her cry for food or help works well as, for most children, a parent soon responds. When it first occurs her crying is possibly from fear that she does not have food, but in time she will learn that crying and other sounds are useful forms of language that indicate her needs. 

Even though baby learns that crying brings loving support, an important point that should be made here is that baby will not cry unless she has a need to cry. Contrary to some opinions, it is highly unlikely that any child under age three has ever been able to decide to cry, except when they actually have a real need for food or other attention. Children do not use crying to manipulate adults. But some children and adults from about age 12 months and into adulthood do use what is sometimes called whining, whingeing or sulking to manipulate others. There is more information about the subject of crying and needs in the book “Magnificent Behaviour”. 

The road ahead:

Learning to speak is a complex process and baby must learn a good deal about sounds, words and the meanings of words before she learns to speak well. When she begins to speak in 6 to12 months time baby must accurately remember how she has heard her native language spoken, and she should also understand what the language means. She must then send the right amount of air from her lungs to her mouth while using her vocal cords, tongue and lips to make the correct sound. Whilst doing this she must monitor the sounds she produces to ensure they are the right sounds. She completes her monitoring by using her sense of hearing and her sense of touch (feeling the speech vibrations). She checks that the sounds she hears and feels are equal to, or at least very similar to, her memory of the words she has heard, and possibly felt, in the past. Her final check of how well she has spoken is to check on how well people respond to what she has said. If the people she speaks to respond by saying or showing that they understood her then she assumes she has spoken correctly. 

Listen and cry:

Learning to talk at this Level 1, then, is very much a matter of being able to listen to high quality speech and of being able to cry freely. As stated above crying allows children to test out how sounds are made by expressing air from the lungs. Further, crying actually contributes to lung growth and lung control as the lungs are exercised in a variety of ways when baby is crying. Crying is a healthy practice and does not hurt baby. The cause of tears (such as hunger, pain or fear) might hurt baby and should be dealt with but the crying itself is actually good for baby: That is one reason why she does it. This is not to say that we should try to make baby cry, far from it. Magnificent parents want baby to be constantly happy, but there will be times when she will need to cry and when she cries at those times she will also be developing her ability to talk. There is more information about crying in the book “Magnificent Behaviour”. For the moment though it is worthwhile to note that crying is good for baby and, under most circumstances, should be permitted without trying to stop her from crying. It is very important though to stop the source of baby’s pain whether it be a bumped head (give appropriate medical attention), a need for food (feed her) or a frightening experience (stop the frightening experience). Hug her and wait.

Speaking two or more languages.

If you wish to teach baby a second, third or fourth language then set aside one or two days each week for the other languages and do the following Level 1 activities for the second, third or four languages in the same way as you do them for the first language. Now is the time to begin creating a multilingual environment for baby if you are multilingual yourself or if you have the opportunity to expose her to other languages. Baby will develop the brain structure required to speak more than one language far more easily during her first three years of life than ever again. When she is an older child or a university student learning languages can be far more difficult than if she begins now. Many, many children learn to speak their native language simply by hearing it spoken each day. Hearing well spoken languages repeated on a regular basis is all that baby requires to learn to speak those languages herself. 

There is more information about teaching additional languages in the section titled “ENJOYING SOUNDS, MUSIC AND LANGUAGES” and in the book “Magnificent Language”.

Activities for parents and babies:

A list of Magnificent Parenting activities follows. These are practical activities for children to do with their parent’s help. Natural Parenting parents create the environment baby requires to complete her OMSDEP.  In many cases, these activities are the environment required and, after commencement, promote baby’s excellent natural development. 

The activity list sometimes includes extracts of preceding sections as well as new information. The list is intended for use as a day to day checklist for quick and easy reference but, to fully understand and participate in the activities, parents may need to re-read the entire Level, or other parts of this book, from time to time.

Do the activities below for the first language you would like baby to speak. Set aside a day or two (or three) for any additional languages you would like baby to speak and use only one language on each day. Alternatively try to mix the use of all languages in approximately equal proportions throughout the day. For example, speak German during the morning, French for part of the afternoon and Swahili during the evening. It matters little though if you also speak just a few sentences or paragraphs of Swahili during the morning French period, or if you put just a few sentences of either French, Swahili or German in with each other. Avoid though, speaking a sentence with words from more than any one language mixed together. To do so can cause baby some difficulty when she begins to speak to others who are monolingual and they don’t understand that she is speaking mixed language sentences of German, French and Swahili. 

Play recordings of excellent speech throughout the day.  

Speak to baby frequently using excellent descriptive language.  Speak in your best language as if she is your equal and understands what you are saying as well as you do (she very well might).

Whenever the opportunity arises take her to places where she will hear excellent speaking and allow her to listen.

Don’t use ‘baby talk’.

Ensure the language baby experiences is always non-threatening, enjoyable and is seeking to achieve good for humanity. Be enthusiastic about great historic speeches, nursery rhymes and all forms of language. Create the environment for her.

If baby wants to cry and she does not need medical attention, safety or food simply hold her close to you until she stops crying. Crying is a release mechanism for her and does not of itself hurt her. Allow her to cry until she is finished. Avoid situations where other adults try to stop baby from crying: Tell baby it's OK to cry. Respect other people’s right to quiet and take baby to a private area until she has finished crying. For information about why baby cries and ways to deal with it read the book “Magnificent Behaviour”. 

What baby should be doing at this Level of development:
She should cry with gusto at birth and at other times when she has a need to cry.  

She should be able to hear.

What baby should be doing as she enters the next Level of development:

At the next level of development baby will cry with an expression of urgency in her voice if she experiences strong or sudden pain; (we hope, of course, that she doesn’t have to!). 

An average child is likely to move on to Level 2 at approximately age 2.5 months.
A child could potentially move on to Level 2 at approximately age 1 month.














Baby’s language and speech development.




Baby’s OMSDEP: Her language and speech development intentions:


  • To express her feelings and thoughts and to ask questions. 



Three-steps to speech:


Baby’s language development goes through three significant steps at this level.  She commences at Step 1, progresses to Step 2, and then progresses to Step 3.


Step 1: 


Firstly she will begin to make sounds that more clearly express her feelings than the sounds she has made previously. She is likely to shriek with joy or make other sounds that express her happiness and interest in life at this time. at the same time as she makes sounds of happiness and joy she is likely to kick her legs, move her arms and smile from a face beaming with delight. This is a particularly delightful time for parents, as well as for baby, as they share in her expressions of joy. Baby will rightly enjoy being happy and delighted with the world, and while she will still cry when she needs to, she should make her first strong expressions of joy at this level; if she is living in a joyful environment. The range of meaningful sounds she makes at this level is likely to include expressions of joy and happiness, unhappiness, sleepiness and hunger.


Step 2:


She will begin to make sounds that are, or will become, her own language. This language is technically known as protolanguage. The first protolanguage sound she makes is usually ‘Ma,’ or a similar sound, which delighted mothers usually take to mean mother. In reality ‘Ma’ (and some similar sounds) is a sound that is easy for babies to say; and that is why they say ‘Ma’. Nonetheless, because mother, and usually father too, expresses such delight that baby said ‘Ma’, and because they often tell baby ‘Ma’ is mother’s name, baby begins to refer to mother as ‘Ma’. And this is an excellent positive reinforcement for baby. Thus baby becomes a talker, her first word ‘Ma’, or a similar sound, is given meaning; firstly by her parents and then by her. 


Another common word babies use is ‘Da’ which usually means “that”. Because baby cannot yet say the words horse, T.V., picture, chair, frog and many others she might very wisely use the word ‘Da’ to indicate that she wishes to draw your attention to that thing. Because ‘Da’ is sometimes thought by parents to mean ‘Daddy’, and because they usually enthusiastically embrace the use of this word, baby is likely to begin to refer to Daddy as ‘Da’ or even ‘Da Da’. 


Baby might develop six or more of these different protolanguage sounds to describe actions or names during Level 3.


Step 3:


Baby begins to make sounds that are as near as she can get to the actual words in her native language. These words are usually the names of people she knows well, favourite toys, pets or other objects, the names of which she often hears and she can easily say. When she says these words it is not unusual for baby to abbreviate them (often into one syllable) to make them easier for her to say.  


When baby learns to speak two words in English, Thai, German, Japanese or any other language, and not in her own invented language (that is protolanguage), she moves up to Level 4. This is an exciting time for parents as baby has now shown that she understands (i) that a common language exists and (ii) she can now cause the air from her lungs to vibrate in the way required to speak her native (and perhaps other) language. 


The Rhyming Game:


Use rhymes in the following way when baby first uses protolanguage or, if you are keen, when you think she might be about to begin using protolanguage. If you begin playing the Rhyming Game before baby begins to use protolanguage and she is not yet ready to begin speaking, your time (and her time too) will not be wasted as she will still be listening, developing and learning about language as you read the rhymes to her.


Her first word might not, by the way, be crystal clear and spoken with the quality of a well-spoken adult. It may be slurred, unclear and only partly said. You might not even be entirely sure that baby did say the word, but you should be a little more certain that she did say it than you are that she did not say it. 


When you are reasonably sure that baby has spoken her first protolanguage word do as follows 10 times each day: 


Get a book of rhymes and/or poems for children. Try to get happy, enjoyable , positive, rhymes or poems and not those that are tragic, sad or nasty. Your child is influenced by what you read to her. You will only need one enjoyable rhyme to begin, but ten will be helpful and one hundred or more adequate.  


Read about six lines of a rhyme to baby, for example:  


Robert wears a red hat, 


Red hat, red hat.  


Robert wears a red hat, 


On his head. 


Robert wears a red hat,


On his head




Tigers have four paws,  


Four paws, four paws. 


Tigers have four paws  


On their legs. 


Tigers have four paws,


On their legs.


Read the rhyme to baby ten times each day for five days.  


On the sixth day say the whole rhyme for the first reading. The other nine times you say the rhyme leave off the last word. Then pause for about 10 seconds before saying the last word. 


On the seventh day say the whole rhyme once. The other nine times you say the rhyme leave off the last two words. Then pause for about 10 seconds before saying the last two words. 


On the eighth day do as on the seventh but leave off the last three words.  

 On the ninth day do as on the eighth but leave off 4 words.  

On the tenth day do as on the ninth but leave off 5 words.  

On the eleventh day start a new rhyme and, using the new rhyme or poem, repeat the procedure above. 


Continue using the rhyming game into the future until baby is speaking well and is learning new words from other sources; or until she has said about 50 short poems or rhymes. Once she begins to say two or more words she is likely to take about six to eight months before she can say 25 words and one or more 2 word couplets. A 2 word couplet is when two words are joined together in a way that makes sense. For example, “come here,” “get dog,” “warm drink,” or “green hat”. After saying her first word she might not say it or other new words for several weeks, even a month or more. If baby does not begin to repeat the words from the rhymes immediately (and it is quite likely she will take at least a few weeks) then recommence the earlier rhymes she did not say at a later date after she has begun speaking. 


When you play the rhyming game baby can be expected to listen to you and to learn the rhyme herself. She can then be expected to say the missing word or words when you don’t. Don’t try to make her or tell her to do so, simply give her the time to do so while you pay attention to her. When she is ready she will tell you by saying the missing word(s). If she does not say the missing word(s) as expected then she is either not ready to do so or has a brain or other injury preventing her from doing so. (The great majority of children do not have a brain or other injury that prevents them). If she is not ready to speak yet then go on to the next rhyme you have selected and go through the procedure again. Continue to select new rhymes and use them 10 times each day for a total of 10 days as you did with the first rhyme. 


Until she can speak 5 or 6 words always give baby a big hug and cheers whenever she says a word or words. Tell her, for example, “ You speak really well, Jill (or Jack). “Wow! You said ‘head’ really well. That was great talking.” Then, when she can speak six or more words, continue to congratulate her from time to time but particularly when she says a new word.


In future Levels:


Once she begins to say two or more words, as stated above, her natural progress is likely to be about 25 words over about six to eight months; with only about eight of those words in the first three to four months and the remaining 17 words in the second three to four months. Soon she will be speaking 10, and then 20, and then 40, and soon 50, 60, 70, one hundred and more words.  The rhyming game can be discontinued when you become unsure about which words baby can speak and which words she does not speak. This is likely to be when she can speak between about 100 and 150 new words. Stop the rhyming game at this point if you wish and, if you wish to do so, you can recommence the game in the future. But if you and baby enjoy the rhyming game it can be continued for as long as you like. And there is no need to stay with children’s rhymes only. If you and baby enjoy Wordsworth’s, Yeats’ or Keats’ poetry, or any poems that are positive, adventurous or joyful then baby will be privileged and delighted to learn from them too and this will be wonderful progress.


When you first begin the Rhyming Game be sure to give baby plenty of time to say a word or words. Ten seconds is a reasonable time to wait but, especially when baby has never spoken, a longer wait can be helpful to give her time to think before speaking. It could take as long as a minute or more for her to answer the first few times. When you finish the rhyme, look lovingly at her and simply wait for an answer. If she does not answer in a minute or more then say the missing word and tell her how well she listened. About once each day, (in a respectful and praiseworthy way without being pushy) you could also say to her that you think she would be able to say it really well if she wants to. 


It is also possible baby will say the missing word to you later in the day when you don’t expect her to. Try to remember to cheer and hug her if she does this; and she will then likely say the word soon after the next time you say the rhyme. 



Activities for parents and babies:


  1. Ask baby many questions during this period and give her time to answer.


  1. Ten times each day do as follows:


Ask baby a question, look lovingly at her and simply wait for an answer. If she does not answer in a minute or more then respectfully and supportively tell her what you think the answer to your question might be. When she answers her first question it could take as long as a minute or more for her to answer. 


  1. Read and do the activities in the section “ENJOYING SOUNDS, MUSIC AND LANGUAGES”. 


  1. Read the book “Magnificent Knowledge” and commence the activities using the Bits of Information picture cards.  


  1. When baby begins protolanguage do one Magnificent Knowledge activity using ten objects instead of ten picture cards as follows: 


Decide on a group of ten objects that you would like to show baby and which she is likely to have the opportunity to talk about every day. The group of ten objects might for example be ‘kitchen utensils’. 


Select ten kitchen utensils that will interest baby. Sit baby in front of you and happily and enthusiastically introduce the group called ‘kitchen utensils’ to baby; “I’m going to show you ten kitchen utensils now.” Hold up a fork and say “Fork.” Then put the fork down (out of sight and   out of baby’s reach). Then hold up a knife and say ”Knife.” Then put the knife down (out of sight and out of baby’s reach). Then do the same with a spoon and the remaining utensils. When you have shown baby each item from the group ‘kitchen utensils’ put them away until the next session.


As explained in the Magnificent Knowledge book the group “kitchen utensils” should be shown to baby three times each day for five days and each item should be shown quickly; for only about one second.  


After the introduction the whole procedure should take only about 10 to 15 seconds.


When the group ‘kitchen utensils’ has been shown for five days then begin a new group of ten objects such as food, vegetables, medical items, toys, furniture, parts of the home building, bathroom items (soap, toothpaste, etc), bedroom items (pillow, sheet, bed, doona, quilt, curtain, etc), stationary items (pen, pencil, notepad, pencil sharpener, eraser, etc), clothing items (T shirt, blouse, skirt, pants, jeans, shoes etc), tools (hammer, star-screwdriver, chisel, pliers, etc), machines (drill, blender, hair drier, etc) musical instruments (violin, piano, harmonica, glockenspiel, clapping sticks, etc).  


To show baby some of these items such as furniture or building parts you might need to take her to the item, allow her to touch it, say it’s name and then take her on to the next item until you have shown her all 10 items. If you have less than 10 items for any one group, as you are likely to have when you have shown, for example, 10 or 20 kitchen utensils; then use the number of items you have as a small group of say five or six. 


  1. The Rhyming Game:


Play the Rhyming Game when baby first uses protolanguage or, if you are keen, when you think she might be about to begin using protolanguage. Say each rhyme ten times each day for 10 days, dropping words as described earlier, then commence another rhyme.




What baby should be doing at this Level of development:


  • Step 1: Making sounds that express her feelings of joy, happiness, unhappiness, sleepiness and hunger.

  • Step 2: Using protolanguage.  


  • Step 3: Saying her first word(s). 


What baby should be doing as she enters the next Level of development:


  • Speaking two words (of which she knows the meaning). 



An average child is likely to move on to Level 4 at approximately age 12 months.


A Natural Parenting child could potentially move on to Level 4 at approximately age 6 months.