My second vocab list – moving to 12 months

[6 months +]

After you have been through My first vocab list , start taking a look at this next list.  Has your baby shown interest in any of these items or actions?  If they have, then definitely get onto naming them and of course, using your hands to help them understand which word you are talking about.  For example, do the natural gesture for ‘phone’ or ‘spoon’.  If you haven’t already, take a look at Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ band wagon or not? which will hopefully inspire you to use natural gesture and maybe even look up a sign or two at

Remember, understanding comes before talking or signing.  So the words on this list are there for YOU to be saying to your child without any expectation for them to copy you back for a fair while.  Particularly if you are starting to model these words when your baby is just starting to take notice of these things.  Once you can safely say yes they definitely know what a particular word means, only then would you start wondering if they might say it/sign it.

Okay, so here is the next vocabulary list to think about!

  • stop/go – these are almost always ideal to be taught together. For example, stop/go tickles, swing, spinning in your arms, cause effect toys.  Natural gesture or look at for ‘go’ sign
  • keys/door handle/remote control/door – all of these can be attractive to little ones, especially those that like to ‘figure things out’.  They might not be meant for them, but still give them the word anyway.  We shortened ‘remote control’ to ‘remote’
  • phone – a natural gesture could be your baby’s first ‘sign’
  • bird/dog/cat – the family pet.  Although it might be strange, it is good to teach your child the animal name first, before confusing them with the pet’s name.  Once they have seen say other ‘dogs’, then you could start defining your pet’s real name.
  • hello/bye bye – ‘bye bye’ gets taught without thinking, but do you always remember to model ‘hello/hi’?
  • hug/kiss –  A fun game – ‘hug’ (hug them), ‘kiss’ (kiss them’, ‘hug’, ‘hug’, ‘kiss’, ‘hug’
  • significant others, including daycare staff – you will need to name each person whilst the person is standing there
  • no – use this when the ‘testing’ behaviours come in! ‘yes’ doesn’t really factor for a little bit longer
  • clap – use your hands to show!
  • sit – each time you put your child into sitting, you can name this action
  • lie down – another early action – at nappy change time or sleep time or just playing then say before floating in swimming
  • walk – does your child know what on earth they are doing when they take steps? Say ‘walk’ to give them a word for it!
  • help – when your baby looks to you for ‘help’, give them a word (and even a sign)
  • more – at mealtimes, cause effect toys, bubbles, swing etc – don’t give more without the word!
  • cup/bottle/spoon/high chair – it’s easy to use these day in day out and forget to give your child a word for these (they might not be as interested in the bowl for awhile but why not label that too?)
  • pram/stroller – again, one you can forget easily but is used regularly
  • play – define play as say when you put your baby onto the floor and use a few toys to show them ‘play’. This can then be used ‘eat then play’, ‘home then play’.  You could alternatively use the phrase ‘time for play’
  • sleep – define when you put them into the cot or even in preparation as ‘time for sleep’
  • poo – recognised before ‘wee’, mostly because we don’t notice them weeing
  • cereal – why not name their breakfast – a generic term is good at first
  • milk – breastfeed, formula or even if they take notice of it in their cereal
  • sandwich/toast – easier to learn a specific food before ‘lunch’/’breakfast’ etc
  • yoghurt – or other main snack
  • swimming – remember to name at the pool and also in the pool
  • kick/paddle – you should be saying the word as you show them the action
  • find the wall/get out – hopefully you are using these terms as you help your little one to the side so if something ever happened, they would understand someone saying these words to them
  • rain – on the windscreen and take them out to experience a few drops and to link in ‘incy wincy spider’
  • come – do as many natural gestures as you need!
sit! play!

sit! play!

Once your child understands all of the words from these first two vocabulary lists, you will realise pretty much every main part of their day you will now be able to talk to them about.  And all of this talking helps them to understand what is happening in their day (say when you’re waiting in line at Medicare), gives you a way to distract them (look bird!) or keep them in the loop with the next activity in the day.  All before they are 12 months old!  And this leads to the snowball effect of communication development where the more you interact with them, the more they learn and interact with you, which causes you to interact with them more!  And the brain develops plenty of fantastic neural pathways 🙂

For example:

– cereal.. finished cereal.. bye bye

– high chair then eat

– wait!! mummy change nappy… then finished…look fan..and light

– say byebye nanna….kiss

– hello bird!

– hat on.. then swing

– mummy and Jake wait.. look clock!

– go in car… to shops

– Daddy come home… in car… broom broom

– car..take Lisa daycare

One idea is to print these two vocab lists and pin them to your fridge to remind everyone in the house the words to focus on and to then use them to your advantage when your little one does understand them.  Try not to use too many words in between the vocabulary words at first.  It’s better to leave a pause than to add more words (for example, ‘go in car…to shops’, instead of ‘we’re going in the car to the shops’).  Talking like this takes practice so the sooner you start the better you will get at doing it!

If you are reading this and realising your baby has already learnt most of these, you will realise how quickly this period of learning these words can come and go.  All babies will learn to understand and then use these words, even without your specific help.  But remember, when learning a second language, it is always MUCH easier to learn new words when:

  • someone takes the time to teach you single words, whilst using their hands to convey more meaning
  • repeats the words often to save your brain doing all the work
  • acknowledges you when you have looked at/pointed to/found the item they just said
  • acknowledges you when you have said the correct word in the correct situation

For more information on the concept of teaching words to a baby is like learning another language, take a look at Getting thrown into a new language is not easy.

Otherwise, please pass this onto anyone you know that has a child under 12 months!

🙂 Remember to check out I raise my kids on facebook where many more posts are put up there! 🙂

My first vocab list – 6 mths+

[6 months +]

Help your baby to understand more about their world as soon as the ‘lights come on’.  Around six months, a baby starts to focus their attention on things more easily and this leads into a perfect time to start giving them some words (just to understand at first).  This then starts the snowball effect of communication development, where the more a baby learns to communicate and communicate back to you, the more their brain develops, so the more they communicate… and the cycle continues.  Your baby is smarter than you think.  By assuming their brains are ready to learn, you can start building their vocabulary from a young age.  Make the early years count and help develop your child’s communication and future literacy skills!

Where do I start in teaching language?

Here is a list of first words that I have found babies first focus their attention to and thus it is easy for them to learn about these concepts.  If you know a natural gesture (think ‘car’ or ‘phone’), use this too which all helps to get the message across (think how gestures help to get the message across in a foreign country – Getting thrown into a new language is not easy).  Take a look at Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not? to understand how to start using a few signs with your baby.  Signing (and even just using your hands to communicate) will help your child’s brain to develop that bit quicker, particularly at first.  It can also be particularly helpful for those that are slower to develop speech, so they will still be able to practice communicating to you, and in turn receiving the positive attention for doing so and get the snowball effect of communication happening too – just without speech at first. 🙂

Of course, your baby might find a different word/concept to take interest in, so go with that!

The first step

Watch your baby closely at different times throughout the day.  As soon as they focus their attention onto something, name that item (or action)!!!  It could be anything, from a fan to a door handle.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Don’t just say it once, try to say it three times.  This just speeds up the process of learning, as if someone was telling you a word in Portuguese three times, you would remember it quicker than hearing it just once.  If you go into the next room and again see your baby looking at a ‘fan’, say it again!  Your baby is obviously interested and will be open to learning the word for this.

Use your hands.  I’ve said it a few times already, but being visual helps your child to understand what you are really talking about.  Just moving your finger round in a circle, in the direction of the fan, helps to confirm to your baby ‘yes that thing moving around and around goes with the word I just heard…fan’.  Think about how a child might point to something in a corner of a room.  Sometimes you really can’t be sure exactly which item they are pointing at without more information.  This goes for your baby – make sure they know which word you are defining, by using your hands!  For those that are keen for more formal signs (for example, animals), go to and type the word into ‘sign search’ in the top right corner!

Define the word. The only way your baby will learn a word is by you saying that word/signing at the time.  For instance, you can say ‘daycare’ while you’re at home or even in the car, but your baby will learn the word much quicker if you say it when you are there, say at the front gate.  Yes, I have had to mutter/pick a quiet time to say ‘daycare’ a few times at the front gate to define it to my two!  The same goes for ‘home’, you could say it when you’re leaving daycare for home or better yet, say/sign ‘home’ at the front door or when you arrive in the garage.  If you forget, just take note to remember for next time!

'book!', 'eat!'...

‘book!’, ‘eat!’…

Even if your baby is closer to 12 months, take a look at the vocabulary list and think about whether your baby definitely does understand each of these words.  You might pick a few to point out each week.

The first vocabulary list

Here is list of words your baby might take interest in, or routines that happen every day (eg. changing nappies) that they will soon learn to understand:

light (probably one of the first things your baby will take interest in, give them the word! or a sign)

fan (in summer, it will surely catch your baby’s attention)


pet – teach them ‘dog’, ‘bird’, ‘cat’ at first until they have seen and generalised other dogs, cats, birds are also called this word, THEN introduce your pet’s name

up – picking them up, or pulling them to sit when on the change table

boo/peekaboo – ‘boo’ is a bit easier for your child to say back, eventually

eat – say when they are eating


bath – take a look at the sign on

finished – after the last drop of medicine, bathtime, changing nappy, eating


home – say this each time you get to the garage or front door

car – remember to define it, say the word whilst pointing at the car

TV – certainly not your baby’s first entertainment, but guaranteed they will show some interest in it before they should be watching it! Give them the word!

phone – easy to ‘sign’ this one

book – check out the sign for this

brush teeth – use a gesture too

change nappy – your baby will basically learn this as one word

wait – a good one to sign as you will be using this for ‘years’ to come!

swing – your baby will probably have good attention for this one, as soon as you put them in it

park/beach/other places they may take note of.  Give them a word!

Stay tuned for the next vocabulary list!

Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…

Baby sign has become quite popular lately and is certain to be a topic at mother’s groups.

The trouble is, you don’t have to be qualified in early language development or signing to teach it.  Hence, ‘baby sign’ can thus vary and be very expensive to learn.

What is key concept signing?

The ‘real’ baby sign is called ‘key concept signing’.  Here are some features:

  • it uses individual signs from Auslan (Australian sign language) along with gestures, pointing and facial expression
  • just the key concepts (or words) are signed, not the whole sentence – for example, ‘come get your hat or ‘more or finished?
  • words are always spoken as you sign
  • you might find key concept signing at childcare centres (if they use any)and also by Sofya, the hearing impaired Play School presenter

What are the benefits of signing?

Research indicates that all babies, not just those with hearing difficulties or language delays, benefit from being signed to.  Whilst many parents can only dream of teaching their baby a second language, signing allows your child to experience the same language opportunities of learning an extra language. These benefits include increased neural pathways in the brain and thus enhancing the language areas of your child’s brain.

Just like teaching another language, teaching your baby a sign for a word is teaching it that we can give more than one symbol to the same meaning (eg. flower), that is, a spoken word (‘flower’ or even a hand movement (the sign for ‘flower’).  This develops ‘symbolic thought’, which is the crux of language.

On top of having a ‘second language’, signing to your child gives more information than just saying a word verbally, which teaches them more about that concept.  For example:

  • the sign for ‘cow’, showing horns above your head, teaches the child a feature of a cow
  • the sign for ‘duck’, showing the duck’s bill with your hand, also teaches a feature of that animal
  • the sign for ‘book’, opening two palms outwards, shows that a book is something to be opened
  • the sign for ‘bath’, rubbing fists up and down in front of body, teaches your child the action that takes place in the bath

This all sounds very simple, but is literally building pathways in your baby’s brain and helping them to remember the word for next time, as it would be easier for you to learn a word in another language with someone reminding you with natural gestures (think ‘hat’, ‘come’, ‘stop’).  The sooner your child starts communicating to you, the sooner they get more interaction which is like a snowball effect for their development.

Keyword signing has been shown to promote quicker language development and definitely not hinder speech!  Here are a few reasons:

  • The adult is forced to speak slower and use simpler phrases, whilst they learn the signs.  This allows extra processing time for the child to understand the message.
  • Signing encourages establishing more eye contact and using more hand movements and facial expression.
  • A sign lasts in the child’s visual field until you take it away, whereas a verbal word comes and goes.  Think about someone talking to you in another language.  You would stay ‘with’ someone longer if they were using some gestures, rather than someone just talking.
  • You virtually only need to know a handful of signs at first, and repeat them.  This repetition of early words/concepts, thus helps your baby to learn language much quicker.
  • A baby starts to understand words well before they begin to speak.  They also start to use their hands before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Hence a child can start to use their hands for signs, before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Giving them signs is a way to help them express what they want to say much sooner.
  • Signing can help to decrease frustration not only now but also down the track when your one or even two-year-old hasn’t developed clear speech.
  • An example would be being at the shops  and with no context, your child says ‘doo’.  It could be ‘two’, ‘do’, ‘zoo’ – but then they sign ‘zoo’ … Some children develop clear speech quickly, others do not.  Some children don’t mind if you don’t understand them, others do.  Having signs is a good back up, just in case!

Remember, the early years count.  The sooner you get your child understanding and then expressing their thoughts, the more they can interact with you, which builds up the social and language areas of the brain and of course the cognitive areas.

So can you see the benefits of signing to your child?  It is quite easy and quick to get started.  See post Getting Started With Signs for more information.

🙂 Heidi

Declan working out his hands! Signing 'finished' using both!

Declan working out his hands! Signing ‘finished’ using both (his brain hadn’t yet worked out how to only use one)!

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old.

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old. Fun!