While “no two children are alike” and “everyone develops at their own pace” there are acceptable age ranges by which certain motor and communication skills are acquired. Below, is a list of skills that should typically be acquired by the age that is indicated. Look at these skills as building blocks – the foundation skills must be mastered in order to build the next set of skills… if your child is missing a skill from an earlier age interval, he/she may need help acquiring it prior to being able to progress.
The million dollar question, ladies and gentlemen: what should your baby/toddler/child be able to do linguistically and socially at various age increments? Cooing and gooing by 6 months, first words by 12months, combining gestures and vocalizations by 18months, 20-50 words by 24months… it’s surely a lot to retain in our busy minds which are already occupied with so much information, appointments, to do lists…. For this reason, I came up with a few acronyms to help you easily remember where your babe should more or less fall developmentally (p.s. – while the summaries presented are based on norms derived from evidence based sources, the actual acronyms are purely my invention, as research shows that the use of acronyms is a reliable tactic to retain information).
LOVE! As your heart fills with love for your newest addition, check to see if they have the following skills:
L – Laughing. Does your lil’ one laugh and giggle when interacting with familiar adults?
O – Observing. By ~6 months, your baby’s interest in people and objects should be on the rise, with him/her visually tracking you move across the room, or the cause-and-effect toys that light up, rattle, and make various noises. You should also notice them attentively observe their own hands.
V – Vocalizations. Babies should be making sounds from the time they are born. These sounds will later shape into consonants and vowels of their native language. For now, all babies should be making “sound approximations” – something that kind of sounds like ‘k’ and ‘g’ – both made in the back of our mouths. This “cooing” should appear at around 8 weeks and by 6 months, babies should be cooing, grunting, gurgling, making pleasure sounds, and using different cries to express their wants and needs. Some babies may even be beginning to babble as they approach their half a year mark, using the ‘p’, ‘b’, and ‘m’ consonants (sound made by pressing their lips together).
E – Engage. Babies are curious fellows. They have so much to learn and their little brains don’t stop working for a second, both during wake and sleep cycles. By 6 months, they should be able to engage with you in various ways: reaching for objects, initiating and maintaining eye contact, reacting to your voice by smiling when spoken to, listening to speech, recognizing voices…
Try these in order to promote the development of LOVE skills at home:
– Peek-a-boo: babies love routine and predictability. As they learn to expect the same sequence of actions from you in this game, they might want to join in and engage with you by laughing, maintaining eye contact, reaching for your hands as they cover your eyes, and even make pleasure sounds!
– repeat strings of sounds like ‘bababa’, ‘mamama’, and ‘papapa’ while they observe your lips – this will help them better pick up on the sounds that make up speech and attempt to imitate! Don’t expect immediate results, stay patient as it may take months before you hear a distinct ‘mama’, but it will be oh, so worth it!
– Stock up on some developmentally appropriate toys – anything that makes noise, lights up, can be chewed on are welcomed activities by your 4-6 months old and will teach them the introduction of cause-and-effect.
– Reading. Your baby Einstein may not understand the content of the stories that you read just yet, but they can certainly be starting to recognize the familiar book, pictures, and patterns of language and intonation. Remember, babies love predictability, and when hearing the same sounds in familiar sequence repeated over and over again, their brains will begin to organize and compartmentalize the linguistic information. It is also never too early to start developing their pre-literacy skills and love for books! Letting them hold the book and try to flip pages (made of durable material) may also help promote some fine motor skills.
– Singing. Part of both of my children’s bedtime routine when they were babies involved singing a lullaby. By the time they were 5-6 months, both were beginning to imitate the intonation, joining my husband and I as we sang! This alone, covers so many skills – vocalizing, engaging, recognizing and discriminating between various types of sounds and suprasegmentals (stress, rhythm, intonation, etc.), and imitating language! Babies are very responsive to melodies and love being sang to – introduce them to several songs and watch what unfolds!
If you notice that by approximately 6 months, your baby does not demonstrate the LOVE skills, I advise you to consult your child’s pediatrician, speech-language pathologist, or another qualified healthcare professional, and seek further evaluation. Early intervention can never be ‘too early’ – getting some tips on ways to promote a baby’s developmental skills are definitely something to add to your tool box. These LOVE skills are the basis for all future language skills that your child will develop, and a lack in any of these may result in delays.