Developing Speech – To use baby talk or not

What happens when you don’t use baby talk and communicate with adult speech instead?

I recently saw a question come through on Quora regarding the use of baby talk, which reminded me of when my children were very young and learning how to communicate verbally.

baby listening to mom

Almost instinctively, most people speak to very young children and infants using something called Motherese or Parentese, which is defined as child-directed speech rather than baby talk. Parentese uses fewer words per sentence, many repetitions, clear articulation and simple sentence structure, with a higher than normal pitch. Even preschool-aged and older children will use a higher pitch and shorter sentences when talking to a baby or younger child.


The important thing is to be positive when interacting in all ways with children, including speech. Baby talk does not use standard language, Parentese does. If you want a child to speak well, use standard language.

On a personal note, I made a request that no one speak to my children using baby talk. All complied. My oldest child spoke early. My youngest waited a bit longer than her sister, but since we didn’t stress out over it, neither did she.

If you have a chance to use baby sign  language with your children, you’ll find that they communicate much earlier using sign language than they would without baby sign and are less cranky (less crying) since they are able to communicate their needs. When my children were young I was not aware of this. If I were to do it all over again, I’d use baby sign language along with Parentese.



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