Baby Talk

Baby Talk

Baby talk… now there’s a term that conjures up a high pitched ‘coochee coo’!

I am all for talking to babies and toddlers in a different way to give them the kind of language input that they will respond to and learn from. There are ways that tend to come naturally when speaking with small people – a higher pitched voice with exaggerated expression (verbal and non-verbal), using shortened phrases, and repeating the same word or sound frequently. These are great examples of ‘baby talk’ and I highly recommend them. I call it being ‘the play school lady’ because back when I was a preschooler growing up in NZ, I watched ‘Play School’. The adults on ‘Play School’ used these techniques and engaged me as a small person to the degree that I still remember the character’s names. {Obviously they used sentences because it was for preschoolers rather than newborns, but the style was the same.}

One thing that I would encourage avoiding with ‘baby talk’ is using nicknames for things all of the time, e.g., booboo (bottle, milk, sore), or adding extra syllables to words that don’t need it, e.g., milkies, horsey. Children usually grow out of using these nicknames, but I do sometimes find children not understanding that there is a ‘real’ name for a particular object. Maybe just make sure you at least use the real name sometimes if you do find ‘booboo’ just too cute.

Some adults say they actively avoid ‘baby talk’ and use sentences instead. They want their child to hear good language and know that they understand more than they can say. I understand that sentiment (it can be annoying to pretend to be ‘the play school lady’) but I would suggest that you use both. Talking in sentences gives small people a full language model to listen to. However, if they are not at the stage where they are using sentences to communicate, they’ll need a shorter model to understand and copy (sounds or words for a baby, short phrases for a toddler).

Overall, the main thing to remember with ‘baby talk’ is to talk! It may seem obvious but it’s easy to overlook the importance of simply saying words that make meaning of their world. Talk to them through the day with routine times as well as new experiences. Explain what you see, say what they are doing, and interpret what you think they mean when they point or make a sound.

If you don’t feel like your small person has the sounds or language skills expected for their age/stage of development, seek some advice from a Speech-Language Therapist (feel free to get in touch with me). A little help early on can often avoid delays and difficulties down the track.

Check out this link for more opinions on baby talk:

Baby talk: Bad for your toddler’s language development?