Studies have shown that babies begin recognizing speech even before they are born. By the time they are a few days old, they can already recognize their parents’ voices. Certainly, one of the proudest moments for any parent is when their little one, having been cooing and gurgling for a couple of months, lets out the first sounds that just might possibly be “mama” or “dada.”

While baby makes these sounds as early as four or five months old, she is not associating the sounds with mom or dad, yet. It’s not until baby is between ten months and a year old that she will begin to mentally associate the sounds she makes with particular objects or people.

Sometime between six months old and a year, your baby will begin to sound more as if he is trying to make conversation. He will change tones, inflections, and generally sound as if he were speaking, albeit unintelligibly. At this stage, your baby is listening to the speech patterns of those around him and trying to imitate them. Towards the end of this time, he will have begun to figure out that words are attached to particular objects or people, and may start occasionally using actual words, mostly nouns.

When your baby starts talking, it is important to pay attention to her. Knowing that you are interested in what she is “saying” will encourage her to continue trying to make herself understood. Soon, she will be picking up words and, through trial and error, will begin to be able to reproduce them. Be careful what you say around babies at this stage, because they will pick up on it, and if they get a reaction to something they say, they are likely to repeat it.

It is also important to speak well around your baby. It can be tempting to use a lot of “baby talk” with your baby, but it’s better to leave the babbling to baby. Your child will develop her speech more quickly if the people around her speak well. Before you know it, your baby will be learning and using new words every day. By the time she is 18 months-two years old, she will be picking up as many as ten words per day. So, keep talking to your baby. Before long, she’ll be talking back to you.