Baby talk boosts language development


“Just talk to your baby.”

– Kallie Knight 

PROVO — Goo-ing and ga-ing may have more benefits than you think. Baby talk, also known as “parentese”, can boost your child’s speech development and language learning. 

Kallie Knight, a Speech-Language Pathologist in Provo, tells parents to never feel discouraged from performing baby talk. Baby talk helps stimulate conversation between you and the baby. She says, “If you think about the stereotypical parents who are looking at their babies like, ‘You’re so cute, yes you are! You’re so cute! Are you so cute?’ Then the parents wait, and the baby will usually coo or giggle which is their turn taking.”

While some may find this high-pitched, childlike tone annoying, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that baby talk can help with infants speech development. 

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The study coached moms and dads in parentese — a near universal speaking style distinguished by higher pitch, slower tempo, sharp consonants and exaggerated intonation. The children of the coached parents showed significant gains in conversational turn-taking and vocalization between 14 and 18 months. The study urges parents to narrate their everyday lives to their babies. Even if your baby does not know exactly what you’re saying, she will recognize that you are trying to engage in an active conversation. 

Knight says, “Just talk to your baby! It sounds really silly, but after you have got this engagement, just narrate everything.” Household chores and bathtime are great opportunities to practice this narration with your baby. 

Knight says that when talking to your baby, try to avoid incorrect grammar and made up words. Using proper parentese will strengthen the connectivity between the areas of the brain responsible for language development and conversational cognition. 

“Those are the foundations of what is laying the communication and language skills for those babies,” says Knight. She also notes that in addition to baby talk and narration, moms and dads should ditch their phones and spend as much time having active and engaging conversation with their baby as possible.  

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