Speech in the First Year

A child needs enough (but not too much) of quality stimuli for a proper healthy development. The most important factors for the development of proper speech are our voice, our speech, a warm approach, positive feedback, a calm environment and a feeling of security.


Every healthy child wants to talk. We lead by example and he will try to imitate us. That’s why we should talk to our children as much as possible. Our voice should be calm, warm and distinctive; with a natural intonation. An infant doesn’t care what we are saying, but how we are saying. He perceives our intonation, pace, timbre, the strength of our voice and rhythm.


Your Voice is the Most Important For Your Child´s Speech

The essential factor for the development of speech is the perception of rhythm. We should talk rhythmically to our child, read him rhymes and just overall make our words rhythmical. Don’t think about how good or bad your voice is, just try to be imaginative.

We should talk rhythmically and melodically during everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, while on a walk, while holding the baby, etc. It should be a regular, rhythmical ascending and descending of our voice on 2 or 3 tones (For example: Just-in is play-ing with his te-ddy bear).

We often talk rhythmically and melodically naturally without even realizing it. This is very important and that’s why a child should hear melodious speech as much as possible. Gradually, we should include children’s songs and rhymes.

Try not to replace your own voice with professional recordings of actors or singers. Our voice is the most important for our child and no other voice can replace it.

Background sounds

In order for the child to be able to recognize and differentiate the quality of sounds, it’s also necessary to offer him a quiet and calm environment. We adults often don’t even notice background sounds, but for children it’s harmful if the TV or music are on all the time.


Breastfeeding as practice

The muscles of the mouth that we need in order to articulate, primarily serve for sucking and swallowing purposes, the basis is quality muscle coordination. The main way for an infant to train this coordination is by eating.

At first, its breastfeeding, which is very important for an overall development of a child in many ways.  Later it’s chewing, biting and drinking out of a cup. In order for a child to correctly use his mouth muscles, he has to experiment with them and discover them. That’s why it’s only natural, that he sticks his fingers and other object into his mouth. We should let our child do that, but ensure it is safe and hygienic.



If you give your child a pacifier, try to give it to him as little as possible. A long-term use of a pacifier can have an effect on jaw development and it prevents the child from talking. An active, satisfied, or a sleeping baby does not need a pacifier.

When a child starts teething, we should start using a special toothbrush for toddlers. This way, we help our child develop proper hygienic habits.



For the sake of a full psychomotor development of a child, its necessary to get him appropriate toys. They should help him further develop his senses – touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste (whistling toys, rattles, bath toys, colored wooden blocks, buckets, balls, rings on a rod, cloth toys, simple picture folding books, etc.)

We should be picky and prefer toys from quality materials – definitely put quality before price. Toys could also be everyday things that children see „in action“: a mug, a spoon, a box, a comb, etc. In these cases, make sure your child doesn’t hurt himself or break the object he is playing with.


Love is number one

If we want to develop proper speech in our child, we should talk to him a lot, appeal to his senses, sing to him, play with him, read books with him and help him discover the world around him. We help him make the most of his own potential.

We give him a chance to learn the basics of correct and content- rich speech. But even the best material equipment can’t replace an emotionally warm and loving environment.

Only such environment, where the child will feel loved and protected, will give him an opportunity to develop his abilities and his speech.  


First Words

A child starts talking around his first birthday. The development of speech is influenced by innate dispositions, environment, but also by whether or not the child uses a pacifier.


At first, a child uses one word or one-syllable expressions about certain situations or people.

Interjections are replaced with verbs. When a child says: „toot“, it can mean: „look, I have a car“, or „I see a car“, etc. He learns to use „mine“ or „my“, understands the difference between „me“ and „you“, and reacts appropriately to „yes“ and „no“.


Tips for Parents 

first words of children

  1. We should always articulate and not use „baby talk“.
  2. We should talk calmly and clearly.
  3. Our tone should be distinctive but not exaggerated.
  4. We should repeat what the child says with correct articulation and not criticize his shortcomings.
  5. The child should be able to see our face while we talk.
  6. We should take regular breaks and not overload the child with unnecessarily long activities. We should stick to a regular sleeping schedule.
  7. We should regularly sing with the child, say rhymes, read simple stories, look at books (folding picture books), comment on activities that we do together and try to get him involved into an active communication during play time.
  8. We should not be forceful. It is forbidden to say anything along the lines of „say“! The child has to want to talk to us and we should encourage his ambition to talk through a positive feedback.

The importance of questions


Around a child’s third year of age, he may start asking questions like „What is it?“ and soon the famous question comes along: „Why?”. The goal of these questions is first of all to obtain desired information. But over time, we start noticing that a child repeatedly asks about the same things over and over gain. By doing this, our child is telling us that he wants to communicate with us; he wants to talk.

A perceptive parent reacts to these questions with patience. If a child hears: „Leave me alone! What do you want now?…“ he will stop being interested in communication with us and stop asking questions.


Pacifier and speech development


If a pacifier is used long-term, there could less room for a natural development of speech organs; the shape of the jaw may be affected and gradually also articulation.

If a child uses a pacifier or his thumb often and for too long, his tongue moves forward. An incorrect swallowing process is then enforced, where the tongue doesn’t move upwards to the hard palate, but instead between the teeth. The result is an open bite, an incorrect teeth development, a crooked jaw and an impaired articulation.  The consequences are difficult in terms of time and money invested in orthodontists and speech therapists when the child is older.

A pacifier is not a universal solution to any baby’s dissatisfaction. We should always try to find out why the child is dissatisfied.


Television and speech development


Why are children so attracted to TV? The moving pictures are fascinating for children. However, a child has difficulties grasping and mentally processing all these rapidly moving sequences of pictures.

A child’s effort to process what’s going on TV results in the decline of concentration and an overload caused by the amount of images coming at the child. A child’s brain isn’t equipped to handle such activity and the consequences could be a reduction in memory capacity and concentration abilities.

During a dialogue, which consists of listening and answering, a child develops his communication skills. But there is no communication with a TV.

When a child listens to a story, he creates images in his head based on his experiences and his imagination. If we need, we can pause the story telling, “explain” anything and the child can add anything at any time. We help naturally develop his speech and thought.

Watching TV should only be a special occasion and it’s a good idea to help him grasp what he has just seen though a discussion afterwards.


The power of fairy-tales


A child is able to perceive short fairy tales and stories at around two years. All children like repetition, so we should let him hear a story several times before introducing him to a new one.

The best thing to do is tell a story by memory so we can shorten it if we have to.

When a child listens to a story, he identifies with the main characters and experiences all their adventures. In his fantasy world he tries out courage, endurance, loyalty and love for the good – basically all that he will later need. These intense and deep experiences fulfill his psychological needs and help develop his personality. Children that do not experience this may later try to fulfill these needs with inappropriate means, such as drugs of other adrenalin experiences.

While our delivery of the story may not be as professional as the ones we hear on CDs, it can be more emotionally charged.

There is no other narrative genre that has such a positive and intensive impact on children as fairy tales do.

In order for a child’s speech to be properly developing, it’s important to create a loving environment in which he hears proper speech. We shouldn’t forget to sing and rhyme with our child, help him recognize and name people and objects in his environment, look at books, show pictures…

    …and during all that: talk, talk, talk…