Baby talk is one of the cutest sounds you can ever hear. The babbling of babies, sing-a-song tone, sugar-dripping cooing—baby talk can melt the hardest of hearts. While talking with a baby is an effective way to engage the baby, it also serves as an amazing stress buster for adults. However, what many do not realise is the fact that baby talk plays a crucial role in infant brain development. Yes, you read it right.
Baby talk is a lot more than silly conversations you have with your baby. Every time you strike up a conversation with your baby, you are actually helping their brain grow a little more. Today, let us look at how baby talk gives infant brains a boost and what you can do to help your baby grow better and faster.
What is Baby Talk?
Baby talk or parentese refers to the cute, sing-song way parents and other caregivers talk to babies. It isn’t about what you say but how you say it. Baby talk is characterised by repeating words, exaggerating syllables, lengthening vowels, and ignoring complex grammar. Like the words, even your facial expressions are exaggerated. This way your baby isn’t just hearing you talk, they’re also seeing it.
Why is Baby Talk Important?
Your baby’s brain develops at a very fast pace during the first 2-3 years of their life. How you interact with your baby at this stage has a huge impact on their brain development. For this reason, you should talk to your baby as much as possible. Just because your baby cannot respond or participate in a conversation like older children doesn’t mean they’re not listening. The question is, why should you call a ‘blanket’ a ‘blankee’ or a ‘train’ a ‘choo-choo-train’?
Here are some facts how baby talk gives infant brains a boost:
Baby Talk Captivates Your Baby’s Attention
When you use baby talk, you tend to increase your pitch. Mothers follow this practice more often compared to fathers. This higher pitch paired with a slower tempo grabs your baby’s attention and invites them to respond. A team studying the effects of sounds on an infant’s attention found that ‘infant’ sounds hold their attention for nearly 40% longer. To understand this, you can compare it to how a well-modulated speech holds your own attention for longer than a droning, unchanging tone.
Makes Babies Feel Safe and Secure
Across infant brain development stages, your baby must feel safe and cared for. It is only then that they can build the confidence to explore and learn more. This is important for right brain education and cognitive development.
Baby talk helps strengthen the bond between babies and their parents and makes them feel secure. By mirroring your baby, you make them feel comfortable.
Babies Prefer Listening to Each Other Rather Than Adults
Babies like listening to baby talk. They enjoy the exaggerated syllables and the melodic patterns of baby talk. While the words may not have much of an impact, the way you say them evokes positive emotions. You can try this at home—say something to your baby in normal adult tones and then indulge in baby talk and see what they respond to.
Stimulates the Brain
If you are wondering how to enhance infant brain development, then the first thing you will be advised to do is baby talk. This is because raising your pitch and dragging out syllables stimulate your baby’s brain. You’re engaging your baby’s listening skills and by repeating words you’re helping them to build associations between objects and their names.
Influence of Baby Talk on Infant Brain Development
Babies are surrounded by several sounds and baby talk acts as a highlight and helps them develop their cognitive abilities. In many ways, baby talk is considered the best food for infant brain development. Here’s why:
- It Familiarises Infants with Sounds They could Make
The sing-song tone that captures your baby’s attention draws their attention to their ability to make sounds. One of the reasons why baby talk is so captivating for babies is probably because they recognise them as sounds they can make on their own.
- It Makes It Easier to Model Motor Movements and Practice Early Speech Sounds
A study on babies between the ages of 7 and 11.5 months noted activity in the baby’s superior temporal gyrus—the part of the brain responsible for auditory processing, including language—when they were exposed to recorded speech. It led researchers to theorise that even at a very young age, the baby’s brain is trying to figure out what movements produce words. Thus, baby talk makes it easier for the infant’s brain to model the necessary movements for early speech.
- It Promotes Babbling for Vocabulary Development
Before they start to talk, babies must babble. For them, babbling is experimenting with articulating different sounds. A study found that babies who are exposed to baby talk, babble more. As they grow up, this can have impressive results in their vocabulary. These babies can have double the vocabulary of babies who didn’t hear as much baby talk and didn’t babble as much.
How to Improve Infant Brain Development with Baby Talk
Since baby talk is one of the factors infant brain development is most influenced by, here are a few things you can do.
Talk to Your Baby Whenever They are Alert
You can use any activity as an opportunity to talk to your baby—when you’re feeding them, changing diapers, or even when you are bathing them. However, if your baby looks tired, sleepy, or cranky, they may need some quiet time.
Smile and Make Eye Contact with Your Baby
When you’re talking to your baby, smile and maintain eye contact to keep their attention on you. This also helps the baby understand that you’re talking to them. Do not look away when they babble in response.
Be Patient and Responsive to Your Baby’s Nonverbal Cues
Pay attention to what your baby is saying with their actions. Use the object’s name when they show interest in things by staring, touching, or pointing. This will help your baby understand the names of things faster and keeps them engaged. Try to refer to objects by the same word so they begin building name associations.
Imitate Your Baby
When your baby starts babbling and saying simple words, make baby talk a two-way street. Imitate their ‘goo-goo’ ‘ga-ga’s and wait for them to repeat the sound. Just as responding to an adult makes them feel heard, responding to your baby in this way tells them that you are paying attention to them.
Narrate Activities and Events
Even at an early age, baby talk can be educational. As you narrate activities and events, your baby will start recognising the connection between them. For example, they will slowly start understanding the connection between words like eat, play, bath etc. with the associated activities.
Sing Rhymes and Songs with Actions
To hold your baby’s attention for longer, try singing rhymes and songs with actions. This helps build motor skills and strengthen the association between words, gestures, and their accompanying meaning.
Read Picture Books to Your Baby
Books with big, bright, and colourful pictures are great for babies of all ages. Show your baby a picture and tell them about it. When your baby shows interest in a particular page, you can make up your own stories to go with the picture.
All children develop communication skills at different rates. You should not worry if your baby isn’t doing things at the same age as others. Remember, baby talk and other infant brain development toys can help the process move a little faster. Check out the Raising Superstars’ Prodigy Framework programme for more ideas on how to help your baby develop basic skills at a very young age.