Baby’s First 100 Words

Sometime in the second half of your baby’s first year, you begin to think ahead to language development.  What are some good words to start off teaching your baby, and what are some good ways to do so?  I’ve got a list of 100 words you can start to teach your baby, and some hints!  Best of all, I have a printable checklist so you can mark off your baby’s progress.  Scroll to the end to download it!

Using Sign Language

The best way to start off teaching your baby to speak is to teach words in American sign language.  You can pick up a book on sign language from your local library to help guide you.  When a baby learns to sign a word, she learns to communicate.  Even though she is not saying a word out loud, she is getting her intent across.  This is incredibly useful to cut down on frustration as your baby grows.  For instance, when she is fussy, does she want to eat, drink, play, or sleep?  Teaching your baby signs for some of the needs she encounters is a useful way to find out.

Your baby may start out making signs very clumsily.  She may have one sign for several things.  That’s ok!  Continue to sign the correct word to her, while acknowledging that she has communicated to you what she wants.  For instance, Bugaboo taps her chest to signify “dog.”  The official sign is to tap your thigh.  So I simply say, “That’s right, there’s a dog!”  And then I tap my thigh or I pick up her hand and have it tap her thigh.

Are you worried your baby will be delayed in speaking if you sign?  Studies have shown a very slight delay in speech for babies who sign.  In my own experience, I have found that Bugaboo will not attempt to say words she knows the sign for, but her language skills are continuing to progress for words she doesn’t know the signs for.  Regardless of whether your baby’s speech is delayed, her communication will not be delayed.  If anything, it will be more advanced.

Common Places to Find New Words

One of the best ways to teach your baby new words is to read to your baby.  Talk to your baby all day long.  And sing songs.  Below are some specific ways to help teach your baby additional words.

And check out my other post for more tips on how to read, talk, and sing to your baby.

Family

Although most people assume your baby’s first words will be “Dada” and “Mama,” when I talk to other moms, it seems most babies have a different first word that is unique to their interests.  Bugaboo’s was hat.  It’s easy to teach your baby to say the names of her family members.

  • Point to a family member and say, “Do you want to go to Grandpa?”
  • Or say, “Where’s grandpa?” and have your baby point him out.
  • Look at photo albums of family members and identify them.
  • At the end of your day, talk about any family members you saw or are planning to see tomorrow.
  • Say a prayer and mention every family member.

Food

When you teach your baby words for food, focus on your baby’s favorites.  That way, when your baby becomes more independent (i.e. picky), you can give your baby choices and ask what type of food he wants.  Don’t forget to talk about utensils and cups.  A baby may say “cup” instead of “drink” or “milk” when she is thirsty.  Also teach your baby to signify when she is hungry and when she is finished.  A great way to encourage discussions about food is to practice baby led weaning.  That way your baby is exposed to food in its natural form, instead of a litany of purees.  Find out why we chose baby led weaning and what it’s all about.

Outside

It’s amazing what your baby will pick up on.  Some of the things we experience outside can be a little abstract.  If I point to the sky, am I looking at the sky, the sun, the clouds, or the tree branches?  If I roll my baby along in the stroller and say, “Look at the trees!” how do I even know she is looking where I am pointing?  And yet, your baby will learn nature words through exposure.  To be sure you are on the same page, teach these words when looking through books so that you can point to the picture and say, “Look at the leaves.”

Things That Go

Babies are fascinated by vehicles.  Many fixate on trains or airplanes early on.  One way to make learning this category more fun is to make up sounds to represent each vehicle.  Try making the chopping noise of a helicopter – it’s fun!  Your baby will likely learn to say, “Vroom” for car and “Weee-oooooo” for the wail of a fire truck.

Animals

Similar to vehicles, a great way to teach your baby animal words is to mimic the sound the animal makes.  This can be hard sometimes – what does a snail say?  What does the fox say?  (Couldn’t resist).  Be creative!  Here is a great opportunity to use sign language.  Expose your baby to animals in a wide variety of ways:

  • Talk about a family pet
  • Visit a zoo – especially a petting zoo
  • Visit a farm
  • Sing songs about animals
  • Collect stuffed animals of a wide variety

Around the House

As you go throughout your day, point out objects around the house that might be of interest to your baby.  He will be your guide in what interests him.  But just because he’s more interested in the fan than the dresser doesn’t mean you can’t teach him these words.  A great way to calm your baby when she is fighting a diaper change is to challenge her to think.  Ask her where various objects are – she will stop wiggling as she tries to come up with the answer.

Toys

Babies have a great incentive to learn toy words because they represent fun.  Whenever I get Bugaboo up from a nap, she starts pointing out her toys to me and telling me about her books and her blocks.

Body Parts

There are a lot of fun ways to teach your baby body parts.

  • Try singing, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”  Once your baby has the hang of those body parts, point out different body parts using the same song!
  • From a young age, try kissing your baby on her fingers, eyes, tummy, etc.  Identify the body part each time.
  • Ask your baby to point to your nose and then point to hers.
  • Sit in front of a mirror and talk about what parts you see.

Clothes

Learning clothes should come easily because your baby gets dressed every day.  Make a point of talking about what you are doing when you dress your baby.  (You get bonus points here for talking about body parts, too).  “Let’s put your shirt on.  First push one arm through, then the other arm.”  When you do the laundry, explain what items of clothing you are folding.  Discuss the colors and whom they belong to.

Don’t forget some of the more unique clothing items and accessories.  Your baby may not be exposed to a coat for a long time if she begins to talk in the spring or if you live in a warm climate.  Look through books and magazines and talk about what the people are wearing.

Around Town

When you run errands with your baby, talk about the people you encounter and the places you go.  Read through books that show pictures of various community buildings.  When you get in the car to go somewhere, discuss where you plan to go, remind your baby again when you get there, and say it one more time as you leave.

Activities

Some of the most important words your baby will want to communicate to you involve day to day activities.  It’s easy to get caught up in teaching your baby nouns, but don’t forget verbs!  Whatever you are doing, describe it.  “Pick the ball up.  Walk over here.  Put the ball down.”  All these phrases include important activity words – nouns, verbs, and prepositions – that your baby will need to be able to effectively communicate with you.

Communicating

Finally, there are just some miscellaneous words that your baby will learn to get along in the world.  Words like “Yes” and “No”  are easy for a young baby to mix up.  Be patient and keep working to ingrain their meaning.  Your baby will learn to say “Hi” and “Bye” – in addition to increasing her vocabulary, these words help her to be a social creature.  You can especially use communication words when meeting new people, such as during a nursery drop off, to help your baby feel calm.  Say “Hi Miss Kathy!” when you enter the nursery with your baby.  (Bonus – this is a quick way to learn your nursery or daycare workers names.  Sometimes we are so focused on our child’s needs, it is easy to forget to find out these helpers’ names).

Introducing a New Language

If you are bilingual, you have the opportunity to give your child an advantage in life!  A great way to teach your baby two languages is to alternate use of each language.  This may cause a slight delay in your baby’s speech overall, but once your baby begins to speak, he will be bilingual!  A word of caution on this approach, though – it only works if your baby’s caretaker is fluent in the language they are using around the baby.

As such, I cannot use this method with Bugaboo.  As much as I wish I had kept up with my Spanish, I am barely conversational at this point.  However, I do consider it an important life skill to know two languages, and I want to introduce Bugaboo to Spanish as soon as she’s ready.  As she becomes proficient in communicating and getting her needs met in English, I will work some Spanish into her life.

I hope you have found these tips on your baby’s first 100 words helpful.  Here is the chart of First 100 Words you can use to track your baby’s progress!

What were your baby’s first words?  Leave a note in the comments!

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