Once children have reached a level of understanding of a bank of words, they often try to imitate some of the words they understand.
You may notice that your child will be able to look for an object by name such as “go get your shoes”, but they have not yet said the word “shoes”. However, common first words are often words such as “mama” or “dada” or other common words that a child has heard the most during their first year of life.
Although they are listening from birth, first words generally don’t emerge until a child is around 1 year old. Once children are using a large selection of words (approximately 200 words) they can begin joining 2 words to make a short sentence i.e. “mama drink” etc.
Most early communication is about meeting needs, so requests for milk, food etc. are highly motivating.
Children also begin to label what they see, so the more words they have, the more efficiently they can express themselves.
When you want to encourage children to maximise their expressive communication, you should expand what they are already saying by modelling back what they say and adding 1 word so that they can hear a model of what they are trying to say but with a little bit more. So if your child says, “bus”, you can model, “big bus” or “bus gone”. Soon they will be making sentences with the additional words you add.
Typical expressive language progresses from single words at 1 year, 2-word phrases from 2 years and 3-word phrases from 3 years old and beyond. If you are concerned about your child’s expressive language, seek professional advice from a speech and language therapist who will assess your child’s understanding and expressive skills as well as social interaction and attention which all underpin expressive language.