To baby talk or not?

Sherree - posted on 02/16/2010 ( 17 moms have responded )

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My husband is more of the opinion that adults should speak grammatically correct full sentences to babies. I feel that baby talk is much more appropriate. You know, skipping words and adding "ie" to the ends of some things and making my voice high and animated. For one thing, she responds well to me and always has. He can't say the same. Who's right? I think I am but I don't know why and I don't have any documentation to give him and his 15 year old son, who thinks my baby talk is silly.

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Natasha - posted on 02/19/2010

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Genai,

But babies can't understand any talk at all. Think about it this way; if a baby has never heard the words "flower" and "chrysanthimum", why is he more likely to learn flower than the specific form? Babies have tons of words and categories to learn, so think of the early months as opportunities to introduce as many as you can to him or her while they're the most receptive to them. The more complexities of language you introduce to your child at an early age, the better chance they have of learning it as long as you continue to use it throughout their early years

Genai - posted on 02/19/2010

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i think that ur in the right.. i talk to my kid with baby talk ever since he was born he is now 72 weeks and can just about say anything i can. they dont understand all that grown up talk. they like for u to keep it sweet short n simple. lol

Katherine - posted on 02/17/2010

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There are studies that support both points. In equal amounts, important groups have proved it helpful and not helpful. So I developed my own synopsis.
First of all, I decided that baby talk is good until the age of crawling. After that, I quit. It felt natural for me to do so at that point. (There is something to be said for something feeling natural to a Mommy)
Second of all, I didn't make up words. I emphasized words and exaggerated intonation. Those are the things that help language development in baby-talk. I didn't use the over-mushy, excess-love-expressing, what I felt was overboard babytalk. The high voice is good too - instinct, and it is proven to keep a baby's attention longer than any other voice, thus giving them longer exposure to language.

If you google studies on baby talk you will find studies confirming it both good and bad, but the good will reflect what I have said - it's the emphasis on intonation and repetition of nouns and such that helps. That's why they can prove babytalk is good. There's enough of the other kind of babytalk to provide reason for it being not so good in some studies.

[deleted account]

As a Special Education Preschool teacher particularly fascinated with research around language development, I think it's a bit of both. But first realize you're talking about two different things - how your language sounds and the words you're choosing. I suspect your husband would be more open to changing the words he uses than changing how he sounds.

At the stage when young babies are first exposed to language, "parentese" is what they respond to best. As your toddler starts to speak, it's a good time not to emphasize the "ie" at the end of things. Learning to say "dog" is more simple than the two syllable "doggie" for example.

I think it's fine for you to continue animating your voice if that's what comes naturally to you, but if it doesn't feel right to your husband, there's no harm in your daughter hearing different vocal patterns from different people.

When your husband really wants to get a point across to you daughter he can try to focus on using shorter phrases. "Ohh look! Airplane!" rather than, "Oh look at that airplane! There's a plane way up high in the sky. See how high up it is? Some day you'll go for a ride in an airplane."

Both are good, but the longer phrases are more for the infant stage of talking simply to expose them to language, where the shorter phrases are better for clearly communicating with beginning talkers. Hopefully he can communicate with your daughter so she can understand him, without him feeling like he's using baby talk.

Deanna - posted on 02/17/2010

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I agree with Lori. Using both grammatically correct language as well as baby talk is extremely beneficial. Playing with language like many of us do when we are using baby talk is good for young children. It helps to initiate language development. Vowels are much easier to produce for little ones. There is lots of documentation in early childhood development that discusses "motherease", the way mothers talk to their children using fluctuating intonation and "baby talk".

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I certainly said "ah goo" until my boys said it, then took it from there with me repeating whatever noises they made to show I was listening - they seemed to like it. I didn't start narrating my day until they were over 1yr, but always giving them something I'd say "ta" and one day they say it. Now I say to my son if something is on the right or left and now by the age of 3 he knows his right and left. It's amazing how they will pick up somethings and not others, and that can become frustating for us mothers!

Someone told me that under age 2 years they need to hear a word 300 times before they say it. So speaking in proper sentences earlier makes sense for that argument, but baby sounds and other noises are important to help them develop speach and pallet at their own pace and I think is great encouragement that you're looking for ideas.

Cara - posted on 02/22/2010

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Keep in mind my daughter is 16 months old and talk better than some 2 yr olds. She says "mama, dada, no, yes, up, down, more, bath, i'm sleepy, sippy, what's that, outside, doggy, kitty, bird, duck, fish, ow, blankie, night night, i love you"...and soooo much more. but again...whether how i talk to her is something you would consider baby talk, I'm not sure.

Crystal - posted on 02/19/2010

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The more you pretend that your baby is a child then a baby the more they will learn. Trust me I have two kids (step kids) that were raised on baby talk and other issues and they have had many speech problems. I vowed to never let that happen with my own kids so when I had my now 3 year old I spoke to her like she was 10 and before she was 2 she could speak as well as a 3/4 year old. My 14 month old right now says Blue, Peekaboo (her first word), Bird, up, down, blank (blanket), many other words and even sentences like "more foo" (food) and "some gan" (again)
Talking in a higher tone is not baby talk and if you want to talk baby talk that's fine just correct yourself after you do it so they understand what you're saying. Things like "you want umums?" then say right after "you want some breakfast/food". That will help them talk properly and form sentences faster without you feeling like you're missing out on "baby talking"

Marie - posted on 02/19/2010

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well from the way you sound you're not really using what most experts consider "baby talk". Baby talk is mostly nonsence words. I think you're fine. One thing I would recommend though is make sure when you're daughter starts talking you don't begin to pronounce things incorrectly just because she does. I can't tell you how many times in my daycare I've had a highly intelligent child who had a wonderful vocab, but would have weird names for nearly every item in there lives (ex-gaga for cup) Mom and Dad also begin to use these words because they think it's cute. Then this highly intelligent kid gets to school and they stick them in speech because they can't use common words. Make sure you read a lot too. that will make a bigger difference than anything in her speech!

Natasha - posted on 02/19/2010

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you're both right! research has demonstrated, and I cannot cite it here but if you do a google search you'll find it, that the sing-song, fluctuating tone of voice that mothers naturally use with babies prompts joint attention, relaxation, and bonding. However, your husband is correct that you should talk to your baby as much as possible, and in grammatically correct sentences with difficult and varied words, but use your sing-song voice! Please read Hart & Risley's book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of American Children. It's less than 300 pages and it'll tell you everything you need to know about language development in children less than 3 years old. It's a longitudinal study that tracked children from difference socioeconomic statuses, but the point is that variations in language stimulation are directly correlated to child outcomes. Enjoy! You can find it on amazon.com for very cheap.

Anna - posted on 02/18/2010

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i never used baby talk. i mean sure "pet" names for some things etc. but never any of that goo goo ga ga stuff. my 1st spoke very early, and my 2nd is also learning another language, so he's "talking" but it's his version. LOL

Cara - posted on 02/18/2010

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I think you are both right in a way. You should speak clearly and use actual words with your son. But I see no problem with saying things like "doggie", "kittie", "fishy" or "birdie". I guess some would consider that to be baby talk but my daughter is speaking in sentences at 16 motnhs old and has been talking well since 5 months, so I've never worried about it.

Heather - posted on 02/17/2010

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well we have done both with my kids. my 5 1/2 year old was talking up a storm by the time he was 15 months old my youngest son who's 15 months now is barely talking so it really depends on the child.

Carrie - posted on 02/17/2010

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I believe it is inapproperiate to talk baby talk cause then they develope speach problems i have 4 and my first i talk to her in baby talk and she develope her own language and didn't start talking properly until I had my second and came along and i used proper talk with my second child and her she started using her words and since i have had 2 more and their speach is developing nicely

Casey - posted on 02/17/2010

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I believe your husband is right.I agree that you should talk to kids like they humans instead of the "baby talk". From the day that my daughter was born I spoke to her like she understood what i'm saying. I believed she benefited from that because when I tell her to do something or go somewhere she does it. She says words clearly and she understands. "Baby talk" will stop the kids from pronouncing the word properly.

Lori - posted on 02/16/2010

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Personally I think you're both sort of right. Because, on one hand baby talk, particularly the way that we instinctively pitch our voices when we speak to babies, is thought to be beneficial in early language development and emotional bonding... Infants respond better to voices pitched higher, with the lilting cadence. And I use plenty of baby talk with my son, generally for silly fun and play.

But then I think it's also important that they get exposed to proper vocabulary, pronunciation, and sentence structure. But still not long, full sentences like to adults. Best to use simplified sentences or single words instead of full sentences until they're older. I do this with my son when I'm really trying to communicate something specific to him, or talking about things we see,etc. But even when I'm using more clear, correct sentences, I still naturally pitch my voice higher and speak with more of a singsong cadence.

Seems to me it's not something we should really *worry* about one way or the other, because parents have instincts about how best to speak to our children, and why fight it - I don't see any harm in using baby talk.

Becky - posted on 02/16/2010

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Hi Sherree - I talk to my son with "normal" talk, full sentences, etc. This was hard for me at first, mostly cuz when you talk to them, they don't talk back! But eventually what I got in the habit of doing is talking outloud when it is just me and him, whether it's about my day, or what I am doing, etc. etc. I think I have read that speaking to them "normally" is best.



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