Speech & Tongue Development in Children
Children experience many milestones within the first two years of their lives. Among these milestones, children will learn how to use their tongues for eating, drinking as well as talking. Some children may say their first words by 4 to 5 months and most form two or three-word sentences by 18 to 24 months. If your child experiences a delay in tongue, speech or language development, speak to his doctor.
Babies are born with the natural instinct to push all foreign objects out of their mouths except for a nipple. Once your child reaches 4 to 6 months old, she may start to lose this automatic reflex, which may be a sign that she is ready to handle solid foods. If you notice this development in your child, start off with a bottle or breastfeeding then feed her some infant cereal. Once she has mastered the art of eating infant cereal, introduce jarred baby foods then finger foods, such as cooked vegetables chopped up into bite-size pieces.
Some children are born with a short frenulum, or the membrane that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. This condition may affects a child's ability to breastfeed, lift and stick out the tongue as well as the way he talks, eats and drinks. The tip of a tongue-tied tongue may look indented or heart-shaped when your child tries to stick his tongue out. Depending on the severity of the condition, your child may need surgery. Surgery involves cutting the frenulum. Possible side effects, though minimal, may include bleeding and discomfort.
In addition to eating and drinking, your child learns how to use her tongue to talk. At first, it may start off as random sounds and babble yet, as your child grows, she will learn how to use her tongue, lips and mouth to form words. Between 4 to 6 months, your child may speak her first word. Around 7 to 12 months, she may start using inflection and tone in her voice. By the time your child reaches 24 months, she may have a vocabulary that ranges between 50 and 70 words and may understand 200 words.
Some children may develop speech and language abilities later than their peers. Although each child is different, some warning signs may include not using hand gestures by 12 months, difficulty making sounds by 18 months, unable to follow directions by age two or your inability to understand your child by age 4. Your child's delayed speech development may be caused by oral-motor problems as well as hearing problems. It is important to speak to your child's doctor immediately if you suspect delayed speech.