Baby Talk Is Pointless Once You Have A Big Kid So Don’t Do It
Studies have long shown that using baby talk in the first year can be beneficial to your child as the melody of a sing-song voice can help a child maintain interest in what you are saying. However, a study out of The University of Western Sydney suggests that the use of what this study calls “child-directed’ speech is recommended once your baby is a little older. The study claims that children can arrive at an answer using process-of-elimination in much the same way as an adult but the way they make those connections can be different and needs to be considered when we analyze the way we speak to our children.
Karen Mattock, one of the study’s researchers, elaborates on what child-directed speech is. From The Daily Mail:
‘This means we should be clearer and give short, simple and repeated instructions to better convey the message,’
‘When you are teaching your child the names of items or giving information about them, keep in mind that their knowledge about language is different, so make sure they are attending to you as well as to the item you are talking about and encourage your child to ask questions.
‘These quality interactions go a long way to helping your childâ€™s vocabulary and knowledge grow.’
I think this is what most parents do naturally– I know I discovered fairly early on in my parenting journey that most of the time, being simple and direct in my wording is key. I can see their interest fading if I start to ramble and I know my window for conveying my message is shorter than that of most adults (most…). However, the use of baby talk in the early life of a child can still be beneficial:
‘At a young age this is very important for an infant’s learning,’ Ms Mattock said.
‘The melody of baby talk maintains the infant’s interest and allows them to capture emotions which facilitates bonding.
‘Also the sing song nature of it and the exaggerated, hyper articulation of stretching out vowels also helps with their development.’
Again, this study is showing what many parents already know to be true- for a little baby, that kind of voice can be very entertaining and engaging. I know parents who insist on speaking to their baby like they are a tiny adult and I suppose I see the merit in that on some level but I know that as babies, my kids always seemed the most interested in what I had to say when I did it in a dopey, exaggerated fashion. The higher pitch, the squeals and the sing-song quality may be massively annoying to everyone else around you but any parent worth their salt knows that a baby digs it.
However, it is undeniably nauseating when an adult speaks this way to a child older than a year or two so I am glad to see my viewpoint validated in this study. If you speak to your preschooler like they are a baby I am of the opinion that they will also act like one. It can be confusing to your child to expect behavior appropriate for their age and then also, talk to them like they are a little baby. Get in all the baby talk you can when they are actually babies so we all don’t have to dry heave listening to you telling your 4-year old that he is your “wittle bitty baby”. We all thank you in advance.