[6 months +]

Help your baby to understand more about their world as soon as the ‘lights come on’.  Around six months, a baby starts to focus their attention on things more easily and this leads into a perfect time to start giving them some words (just to understand at first).  This then starts the snowball effect of communication development, where the more a baby learns to communicate and communicate back to you, the more their brain develops, so the more they communicate… and the cycle continues.  Your baby is smarter than you think.  By assuming their brains are ready to learn, you can start building their vocabulary from a young age.  Make the early years count and help develop your child’s communication and future literacy skills!

Where do I start in teaching language?

Here is a list of first words that I have found babies first focus their attention to and thus it is easy for them to learn about these concepts.  If you know a natural gesture (think ‘car’ or ‘phone’), use this too which all helps to get the message across (think how gestures help to get the message across in a foreign country – Getting thrown into a new language is not easy).  Take a look at Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not? to understand how to start using a few signs with your baby.  Signing (and even just using your hands to communicate) will help your child’s brain to develop that bit quicker, particularly at first.  It can also be particularly helpful for those that are slower to develop speech, so they will still be able to practice communicating to you, and in turn receiving the positive attention for doing so and get the snowball effect of communication happening too – just without speech at first. 🙂

Of course, your baby might find a different word/concept to take interest in, so go with that!

The first step

Watch your baby closely at different times throughout the day.  As soon as they focus their attention onto something, name that item (or action)!!!  It could be anything, from a fan to a door handle.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Don’t just say it once, try to say it three times.  This just speeds up the process of learning, as if someone was telling you a word in Portuguese three times, you would remember it quicker than hearing it just once.  If you go into the next room and again see your baby looking at a ‘fan’, say it again!  Your baby is obviously interested and will be open to learning the word for this.

Use your hands.  I’ve said it a few times already, but being visual helps your child to understand what you are really talking about.  Just moving your finger round in a circle, in the direction of the fan, helps to confirm to your baby ‘yes that thing moving around and around goes with the word I just heard…fan’.  Think about how a child might point to something in a corner of a room.  Sometimes you really can’t be sure exactly which item they are pointing at without more information.  This goes for your baby – make sure they know which word you are defining, by using your hands!  For those that are keen for more formal signs (for example, animals), go to www.auslan.org.au and type the word into ‘sign search’ in the top right corner!

Define the word. The only way your baby will learn a word is by you saying that word/signing at the time.  For instance, you can say ‘daycare’ while you’re at home or even in the car, but your baby will learn the word much quicker if you say it when you are there, say at the front gate.  Yes, I have had to mutter/pick a quiet time to say ‘daycare’ a few times at the front gate to define it to my two!  The same goes for ‘home’, you could say it when you’re leaving daycare for home or better yet, say/sign ‘home’ at the front door or when you arrive in the garage.  If you forget, just take note to remember for next time!

'book!', 'eat!'...

‘book!’, ‘eat!’…

Even if your baby is closer to 12 months, take a look at the vocabulary list and think about whether your baby definitely does understand each of these words.  You might pick a few to point out each week.

The first vocabulary list

Here is list of words your baby might take interest in, or routines that happen every day (eg. changing nappies) that they will soon learn to understand:

light (probably one of the first things your baby will take interest in, give them the word! or a sign)

fan (in summer, it will surely catch your baby’s attention)


pet – teach them ‘dog’, ‘bird’, ‘cat’ at first until they have seen and generalised other dogs, cats, birds are also called this word, THEN introduce your pet’s name

up – picking them up, or pulling them to sit when on the change table

boo/peekaboo – ‘boo’ is a bit easier for your child to say back, eventually

eat – say when they are eating


bath – take a look at the sign on www.auslan.org.au

finished – after the last drop of medicine, bathtime, changing nappy, eating


home – say this each time you get to the garage or front door

car – remember to define it, say the word whilst pointing at the car

TV – certainly not your baby’s first entertainment, but guaranteed they will show some interest in it before they should be watching it! Give them the word!

phone – easy to ‘sign’ this one

book – check out the sign for this

brush teeth – use a gesture too

change nappy – your baby will basically learn this as one word

wait – a good one to sign as you will be using this for ‘years’ to come!

swing – your baby will probably have good attention for this one, as soon as you put them in it

park/beach/other places they may take note of.  Give them a word!

Stay tuned for the next vocabulary list!