Language: Discovering sounds

Language: Discovering sounds
Playing with sounds: Another way to develop a baby’s language.

Before they can pronounce words, a baby produces sounds. From 3 months old, they enjoy making sounds, and around 8 months old, they can associate meaning with a few words they hear (e.g., mom and dad). They will soon talk!

Sounds and language

Very early in life, babies begin paying attention to sounds. Your baby tunes in to your voice when you reassure or comfort them. By hearing people talk, their ear gradually becomes accustomed to the sounds of the language spoken around them. As you talk to them, they also develop the desire to interact with you.

Before the age of 1, the child discovers and explores sounds, which contributes to their language development.

  • From birth, the baby is attracted to familiar voices, such as those of their parents.
  • From 1 month old, they unintentionally produce cooing sounds, i.e. vowel sounds like “a” and “ae.”
  • From 3 to 6 months old, they voluntarily make sounds (babbling). They then begin to explore the full range of sounds they can produce with their mouth. They listen attentively to the soft, loud, bass, and treble noises they make.
  • From 6 to 9 months old, the child begins babbling, i.e., combining consonants and vowels like “dadada” and “nenene.”
  • From 9 to 12 months old, when babbling, the baby can usually produce “p,” “b,” “m,” “t,” “d,” and “n” sounds more easily.

Activities to have fun with sounds

Playing with sounds is a great way to stimulate your baby’s language learning. Here are some ideas for fun activities to do with them.

  • Sound imitation games: Mimic the sounds your baby makes. You are showing them that it’s nice to interact and you are encouraging them to produce sounds that resemble those of language. At about 6 months old, your baby will also enjoy imitating you. Therefore, pronounce sequences of sounds that they can produce so they can try to copy you.
  • Nursery rhymes: Sing nursery rhymes to your child, and after a few months, they will sing along with you. Throughout the preschool period, singing nursery rhymes to your toddler provides many advantages for language learning, including the ability to properly listen to sounds.
  • Noise games: Point out an animal in a book to your baby and make the sound that animal makes for fun. When your baby is 9 or 10 months old, make an animal sound and ask your child to find the animal that makes this sound in a book or among figurines and stuffed animals. For example, meow like a cat and ask your child to show you which of their stuffed animals makes the same noise. You can also make other noises such as those of different means of transportation.
If the baby is not interested in sounds
If your child does not react to sounds, talk to their physician. They can refer you to an audiologist if needed.


Things to keep in mind

  • Before pronouncing words, your baby becomes familiar with sounds: They produce sounds, associate meaning with certain words, and practise imitating sounds and words.
  • When you talk to your baby and imitate the sounds they make, you are encouraging them to interact and preparing them to talk.
  • Playing with sounds is a great way to stimulate your child’s language development.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Marie-Ève Bergeron-Gaudin, M.Sc., speech therapist
Research and copywriting:
The Naître et grandir team
Updated: July 2021




Useful links and resources

Note: Hyperlinks to other sites are not updated on a continuous basis. Thus, some links may not work. In such case, use the search tools to find specific information.

  • BERGERON-GAUDIN, Marie-Ève. J’apprends à parler : le développement du langage de 0 à 5 ans. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 184 pp.
  • BOUCHARD, Caroline. Le développement global de l’enfant de 0 à 6 ans en contextes éducatifs. 2nd ed., Quebec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2019, 516 pp.