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It's never too early to start learning language

Mother gazing at baby

Babies’ brains start laying down the groundwork of how to form words well before speech actually begins. This presents several opportunities to us, as parents.

A newborn baby’s brain contains over 100 billion brain cells, or neurons. Each neuron forms small branches called dendrites, which allow neurons to communicate across the connections between them. “About 80% of dendrites form after birth, and a large percentage of them form during the first three years of life,” says speech and language therapist for Nubabi, Carianne Vermeulen.

In her first 1000 days, your baby’s brain is going into overdrive forming these dendrites. This is when the brain is best able to absorb language. As the brain takes in information from the world, when you stimulate your baby through singing, talking or playing, you are helping your baby form these dendrites.

Along with talking to your baby in that instinctive parental lingo known as ‘Parentese’ or ‘Motherese’, try these activities from Nubabi’s Weekly Baby Stimulation Guide to boost baby’s speech and language development, after all, it’s never to early to start learning language.

In the first few weeks

You want to help your baby learn to talk, let’s first help him to learn to listen to sounds. This is the beginning of communication.


  • While your baby is lying on his back, shake a rattle about 20 to 30 centimeters from his face.
  • Slowly move the rattle off to one side, shaking it from time to time to keep his attention. When the rattle is at the far end of your baby’s line of vision, move the rattle out of sight. Your baby should turn his head toward the area where the rattle disappeared.
  • If he doesn’t, prompt by shaking the rattle while it is out of sight.
  • If your baby blinks reflexively at the sound, scrunched his nose or flares his hands out and generally seems to get a fright with the noise, try a softer sound. Remember to watch your baby’s cues and if he has had enough, then try again at a later stage.

Around 4-6 months

At around 4-6 months, your baby is now starting to communicate with you by shouting to get your attention or at later stages babbling (e.g. baba, dada, babi, mami) and he may use a variety of noises, e.g. imitating coughing, tongue clicks or kisses.


  • You can initiate babbling or sounds by choosing a few vowels (e.g. ‘oo’, ‘aa’, ‘ee’) or noises (e.g. tongue raspberries or kissing noises) to repeat throughout the day.
  • Your baby will also love to hear the noises he has made, so have fun trying to copy your baby’s sounds.
  • Introduce a turn-taking game with your baby by initiating sound making and copying the sounds your baby makes in response.

Around 10 months

At this stage you will notice that your baby’s vocalisations are not just sounds anymore, but rather goal-directed productions. You can help your baby use sounds that are more and more directed at communicating with you.


  • Be on the lookout for moments where your baby’s vocalisations are directed at communicating with you and not just vocal play. Repeat your baby’s sounds and talk about what you think your baby is trying to say. For example, your baby can stretch his arm toward his milk bottle that is out of his reach while saying “bo”. Comment on this by saying, ”Bottle. You want bottle? Here’s your bottle.” Emphasize the word bottle by saying it slightly louder or by increasing your pitch when saying ‘bottle’.
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