What is a First Word?


Most children say their first word around 12 months of age. How can you tell your child’s first word from other sounds that they make?

A word is when a child uses sounds consistently and meaningfully. When children say words, they may not sound exactly like adult words. It is common for young children to use word approximations. A word approximation is a word. Children simplify the way adults say words to make them easier to say. For example, a child might say “mama” for mommy, “baba” for bottle, or “ma” for more.

Children usually make other sounds that aren’t words, called babbling. Babbling is when children use sounds that adults use to talk, like “b,” “p,” and “m” sounds paired with vowel sounds. Babbling may be simple and repetitive, like “bababa” or “mamama,” or may be more complex and varied, like “abibabu”.  Children may continue to use complex and varied babbling after they say first words. When children start to use complex babbling to create longer strings, this is called jargon.

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