Ah, baby talk. That distinct, cute, singsong-y way you talk to your child. It might seem like second nature to you, but it’s actually an innate way of speaking to your baby and it does some important things to help your little one learn about language.
Baby talk captures your baby’s attention, which helps them learn language. Research shows that infants who hear baby talk understand words quicker than those who don’t. Here are eight ways to support language development in infancy.
1. Reply when they make sounds
Repeat their sounds and add words to them. Hellooo! Ba ba ba—do you want your bottle now?
2. Describe what’s happening throughout the day
Narrate what you’re doing. While changing your baby’s diaper or driving to the store, you might say, Let’s see if you need a new diaper … yes, you do! Now I’m going to lift your legs up, up, up. Now let’s do a quick wipe … is it cold? It might feel silly at first, but just know your sweetie’s taking it all in.
3. Use simple, descriptive language
Your baby may pick up on names and descriptions of everyday objects more easily if you use basic words and short sentences. Does that taste good? Are you warm? Fortunately, baby talk tends to naturally come out this way.
4. Label things with consistency
Help your child identify their world: Here is the cat. Try to use the same words for the same things: Call the cat “the cat” every time, for example, rather than switching around to “kitty,” “kitty-cat,” “Whiskers,” and so on.
5. Use your voice and body language to soothe your baby
Say comforting things while you cuddle or rock them. This is especially important when they’re upset.
6. Read picture books together
Point to objects and colors on the page and name them.
Singing counts as words too! You might be surprised how closely nursery rhymes and songs follow the same cadences of baby talk.
8. Leave space for back-and-forth “conversations”
Long before your baby can speak, they begin to understand the rules of conversational turn-taking: You talk, I talk. So, don’t jabber nonstop when you communicate. Let your little one get a word in. Say something, then pause and look at your baby. Give them a chance to respond. You might be surprised how long you can keep your little convo going.
Hearing words directly helps your child learn language. That’s why child development experts recommend talking to your baby as much as possible throughout the day. With these eight tips for baby talk, now you can get more conversations in.