Baby talk gets babies talking sooner
If you’re looking to start your baby talking sooner rather than later, a new study says the number of words doesn’t matter as much as how you say the words and the social context where the words are said.
The research, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Developmental Science, analyzed thousands of 30-second sound bites of parent-baby verbal exchanges. Researchers measured parents’ use of a regular speaking voice vs. an animated, exaggerated baby-talk style, and whether speech was one-on-one between parent and child or in group settings.
Research revealed that of the 26 families studied, the more often parents used baby talk in one-one-one conversations, the better language development was at that time and in the future. The more parents exaggerated vowels, such as “How are youuuuu?” and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year-olds babbled, which is a precursor to producing words.
At age 2, parents answered a questionnaire measuring how many words their children knew. Results showed that infants who heard more baby talk knew more words. The 2-year-olds in families who spoke the most baby talk in a one-on-one social context on average knew 433 words while 2-year-olds in families who used very little baby talk in one-on-one settings knew 169 words.
Study authors said in a statement that parents can use baby talk while doing everyday activities, saying such thing as “Where are your shoooes?”, “Let’s change your diiiiaper,” and “Oh, this tastes so gooooood!”, emphasizing important words and speaking slowly using a happy tone of voice.
“It’s not just talk, talk, talk at the child,” said co-study author Patricia Kuhl. “It’s more important to work toward interaction and engagement around language. You want to engage the infant and get the baby to babble back. The more you get that serve and volley going, the more language advances,” added Kuhl, co-director of University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences in Seattle.
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