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Putting Words in their Mouth: Speech and Language Development

Many parents eagerly await their baby’s first words, but so often we forget that communication and literacy begin much earlier. Here are some common ways your child will communicate during the first few months and years of their life:

  • At 2 months your baby can make different sounds, and at 4 months your baby will use these sounds to ‘answer’ you. These may include cooing, gurgling, or other noises they like to make.
  • At 9 months your baby will babble, respond to their name, and use sounds to get your attention.
  • At 12 months your baby will start to put sounds together like they are talking, and will use three or more simple words like mama, dada or cat.
  • At 18 months your child will use 20 words regularly, and respond to simple questions with words or gestures.
  • At 2 years your child will use sentences with two or more words, and at 3 years old your child will use sentences with three or more words.


As a parent or guardian, you play an important role in helping your child learn how to talk and communicate. You can use language in fun ways to help develop these skills:

  • Talking and singing (even if it’s off key!) 
  • Books, books, books! Reading is a great way to build literacy skills. First-time parents in London and Middlesex County can get a free Baby’s Book Bag at any public library or EarlyON/Family Centre https://www.healthunit.com/early-child-development-literacy#baby-book-bag.
  • Play games that use sounds or words. Everyday activities like bath time, family meals or as part of your child’s bedtime routine are all opportunities to make literacy fun! 1,2,3,4


What should you do if you are concerned? 

  • Visit the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s Early Childhood Development webpages at https://www.healthunit.com/early-child-development.
  • Speak to your family doctor. They may recommend a hearing test to see if your child has hearing loss. Even mild hearing loss can impact a child’s speech and language development. 
  • All newborns should get a hearing test as part of the Infant Hearing Program (https://infanthearingprogram.com/). If your newborn did not get this done, call 519-663-0273 or 1-877-818-8255 to arrange a test before eight weeks of age. 
  • tykeTalk.com offers speech and language programs for children in the Thames Valley District for children from birth to school-aged. A licensed Speech-Language Pathologist will complete an assessment and help determine which therapy program is best. 
  • Check out programs at EarlyON Child and Family Centres at https://www.familyinfo.ca/en/27/About/.


Have fun making literacy a part of everyday life with your child. And remember, every child is unique and develops at a different rate. If you are concerned, reach out for support.



  1. Middlesex-London Health Unit. (2015). Speech and Language Development. Retrieved from https://www.healthunit.com/early-child-development-speech
  2. Toronto Public Health. (2021). Communication Checklist. Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/children-parenting/pregnancy-and-parenting/parenting/speech-language-vision-hearing/speech-and-language/communication-checklist/
  3. Looksee Checklist by NDDS. (2021). Looksee Checklists, 1 month – 12 months. Retrieved from https://lookseechecklist.com/
  4. Speech Language and Audiology Canada. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.sac-oac.ca/public/children


Submitted by Jordan Tompkins, RN PHN on behalf of the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership


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