You love your baby and want them to have all the advantages in life. You can picture them excelling and leading the pack before they are even born. But when it comes to actual training, sometimes it’s difficult to know what is best.
What about baby talk? Should you ‘goo’ and ‘gah’ back to your baby when they chatter away?
Most experts say that imitating your baby from the beginning is validating to their emotions and encourages them to communicate. The back and forth of smiles, gestures and even those first sounds set the example for later conversation. And the higher pitched, exaggerated tone is thought to appeal even more to little ones, encouraging them to listen more intently.
The term parentese is now an accepted term to describe this slow and over enunciated speech of adults toward children. Unlike baby talk, with its ‘widdle bayby’ and shoesy woozy, parentese uses real words just with different inflections. Hearing the different intonations is thought to be helpful as it clues babies in to understanding a sentence.
Most cultures use some form of parentese, even sign language. Babies enjoy the sound of parentese and it is important to the development of their speech. For babies, listening to their own language is like an adult learning a foreign language where it's difficult to know where one word ends and another begins. Parentese aids in differentiating separate words to little ears.
The problem comes when parents make up fake words. These are words that often have an extra 'y' sound tacked on to the end. They are not known to help in language development and could possible hinder it. Children then need to learn the real word along with the parents 'cute sounding' alternative.
Talking in full, grammatically proper sentences is also shown to help speech development and earlier understanding. Focusing on communication when your baby is young encourages development in reading, writing, and interpersonal skills later in life.
In conclusion: The more conversations you have with your baby, the better. Just steer clear of nonsense words. Parentese is actually a valid and beneficial tool for communication.