First Words

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First Words
Almost one in six children - and almost one quarter of boys - have problems learning to talk.

A YouGov survey of over 1,000 parents also found that only half of children with speech problems received expert help. The survey found some three-year-olds were unable to say a single word. Six out of 10 people questioned for the survey said the ability to talk, listen and understand was the most important skill for children to develop in the early years. This priority came ahead of the ability to interact with others (26%), reading skills (11%), numeracy skills (2%) and writing skills (1%).

Most parents could remember what their child's first word was. Among those surveyed, that word was most likely to be "Dadda" (15%) or "Daddy" (13%), with "Mama" (10%) and "Mummy" (8%) trailing a little behind. Speech experts generally say that the "da" sound is easier for babies to say than "m".

First Words

Dada - 15%
Daddy - 13%
Mama - 10%
Dad - 10%
Mummy 8%
Mum - 7%
Cat 2%
No - 1%
Dog - 1%

All those questioned said they looked at picture books with their children, told them stories and sang nursery rhymes with them - all activities which boost and encouragelanguage development.

The survey showed that the majority of children did not enjoy looking at picture books with their parents until they were over six months old, but 18% enjoyed this at three months or younger. Researchers reported that children from more affluent families were reported to enjoy looking at picture books, and listening to stories and rhymes, at a younger age than children from less affluent families.

The most common age for children to say their first word, according to the parents surveyed, was between 10 and 11 months. More girls than boys (34% against 27%) said their first word before they reached nine months. But 4% of children had not said their first word by the age of three. There were no real social class differences in when children said their first word, the researchers said.

January 2010

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