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Photo taken in collaboration with Ang Wei Ming
“The choo-choo is coming!”
“Do you see that bunny there?”
Mothers, fathers, most adults and even young children talk to babies in a unique way, usually without the familiar patterns or vocabulary of our spoken language.
That’s baby talk, and people often tell parents to avoid this sing-song, “kiddy” way of speaking with the youngest member of the family because it will apparently slow a child’s language development.
But there’s nothing further from the truth. Latest studies show that babies love baby talk – or what researchers call “infant-directed speech” – as it actually helps them in their language development.
A study of 48 infants between 9 to 27 months in Scotland showed that children who learnt baby words have a wider vocabulary and expressed themselves better when they were older. The findings showed that the more baby talk words that infants were exposed to, the quicker they grasped language.
People think baby talk is a combination of silly sounds and words, but it really isn’t. True baby talk is actually proper speech but delivered with a different rhythm, such as shorter sentences, simpler words, repetition or different pronunciation.
If you hear yourself talking to your baby, you’ll notice that your speech pattern is different from when you talk to other adults. Perhaps your pitch is higher and more animated. Maybe you’re speaking in shorter bursts with longer pauses and certain words exaggerated, especially when naming things.
Babies are attracted to baby talk not only because of “baby” words like tummy, choo-choo trains or bunnies. They pay more attention and respond more eagerly to baby talk than to normal adult conversation because the exaggerated and high-pitched tones are like a spark that lights up their brains.
80% of your baby’s brain development takes place in the first three years. As the brain grows, it forms the connections, what we call synapses, in order to learn and process information.
Speaking to your baby activates the synapses in the part of the brain that handles language. The more your baby hears you speaking, the stronger these mental connections get, strengthening your child’s language and learning ability.
According to parenting website Grow by
this is the reason why babies who get more baby talk know more words by age 2 compared to their peers.
You can talk, sing and repeat these familiar baby talk words to your babies during caregiving routines such as bath times, meal times and when changing diapers. This helps your babies to predict and participate as they listen and interact with you.
Photo taken in collaboration with Deborah Quek, featuring one of our ParentWise families
Because it’s typically simpler than adult language, infant-directed speech gives babies a foundation from which to build up more sophisticated vocabulary and grammatical structures.
Infant-directed speech also communicates emotions more effectively, which in turn helps establish stronger bonds with your little one.
Contrary to popular belief, the best way to speak to your little one may be what comes most naturally to you: that sing-songy way many of us find ourselves speaking to infants. So stay on that choo-choo train instead of hopping off it too quickly.
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Tags: Child Development
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