Daddies and mummies, has anyone ever told you not to do the ‘baby talk’ to your baby? However, at the same time, you may have also heard that talking to your baby, or doing the ‘baby talk’ boost your baby’s language development. So which side should you listen to? We’re here to clear your doubts once and for all.
Baby Talk Vs Parentese
First thing first, let’s answer that burning question in your mind — should I baby talk to my baby? Well, the most straightforward answer is that talking to your baby in a higher pitch, slower tempo and exaggerated intonation can boost your baby’s language development, but you should avoid saying those cutesy words with a mash-up of silly sounds that doesn’t make sense. Use real words and proper grammar when talking to your baby.
But why shouldn’t you use silly words when talking to your baby? While research is limited, expert suggest that these nonsense words may slow down children’s language development. This is because silly words like these delay childrens’ exposure and learning of the actual words. So for example, instead of saying “where are your shozie wozies?”, try saying “where are your shoooes?”. That said, when you notice your little ones inventing their own adorable versions of words, don’t feel pressured to correct them right away. Your little ones will switch to the actual word when they are ready. So the most important thing is that they hear and learn the actual word from the start.
The reason why you see two different opinions when reading about the topic of baby talk is probably because different sources use different terms to explain the way adults talk to babies. However, the concept behind it is actually the same. Some sources use ‘baby talk’ as a general term for any type of speech associated with an adult speaking to a baby, regardless of the style. On the other hand, some sources separates the idea of ‘baby talk’ and ‘parentese’ — in which the former refers to the discouraged way to talk to your baby with nonsense words, while the latter refers to the encouraged way to talk to your baby in exaggerated tones and tempo using real words and proper grammar.
So whichever term you choose to call it, as long as you understand the correct concept behind it, you’re good to go! But for your ease of understanding, we are going to use the term ‘parentese’ to refer to the encouraged way to talk to your baby for the rest of this article.
Understanding ‘Parentese’ & How It Affects Your Baby’s Brain
According to Patricia Kuhl, the co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington — who has also been studying children’s early language learning for decades, parentese comes with three characteristics. First of all, parentese has a higher overall pitch. Secondly, it sounds excited and happy with exaggerated emphasis on the intonation — which makes the highs sound higher, and the lows sound lower. Also, parentese is spoken at a slower pace, and this gives babies the chance to respond to you when you pause in between phrases.
So how does your baby’s brain react to this way of talking? First of all, experiments show that parentese grabs the attention of the baby better. When babies pay attention to you and start listening to your speech, both the auditory cortex area and the motor areas in their brains light up, which means that parentese not only encourage the baby to listen, but also to talk back. To put it simply, the more you use parentese to talk to your baby, the faster and better your baby’s language skill can develop.
Benefits of Talking in Parentese With Your Baby
- It Helps Your Baby Learn A Language
Making your tone sound higher or lower than how you would usually talk and slowing down your talking pace helps your little one learn the pronunciation of each word and acknowledge when one word ends and another begins. By using real, actual words, parents are also showing their children a clear example of the sounds that form words. Not to mention parentese also expose your little one to more vocabularies as they pay more attention to what you are saying.
- It Boosts Your Baby’s Motor Development
When your baby listens to you talk, it stimulates more than just the auditory areas of their brain. Surprisingly, the motor-planning or movement-planning part of your little one’s brain response as well. A study by Patricia Kuhl at the University of Washington shows that babies are already practicing the movements to speak as early as at their seventh month. So while you might think that your baby is still too young to speak or understand your words, you are actually helping your baby to build a strong language foundation by talking more in a way that appeals to them.
- It Encourages Bonding Between You & Your Baby
You already see this one coming — yes, talking in parentese allows you to grab your baby’s attention easier and hence help you to establish a strong bond with your baby overtime. There are a few points you need to take note though. First of all, look into your baby’s eyes when you talk to them, and try to keep all other distractions (your smartphone being the biggest one) away for a few minutes a day and focus on just interacting with your little one. Furthermore, don’t interrupt your baby when they try to respond, listen patiently to what they are trying to say, even if it’s just cute baby coos! If you need more ideas on fun bonding activities to do with your little one regardless of their age, we recommend you to check out MumChecked for a series of popular baby books, toys and nursery items. MumChecked is a one-stop mom and baby products shopping site that offers exclusive deals and offers for a wide range of top rated products.
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