How to Support Your Baby’s Language Development

Hello Busy Moms! Today I’m back talking about language development in babies. Language development is fascinating, especially once infants start talking sometime after their first birthday. But even before they begin talking, language is developing under the surface.

Tips from a child psychologist on how to support your baby's language

When babies make cooing sounds they are practicing vowel sounds and when they make sounds like “ba,ba,ba,ba,ba” they are practicing vowel-consonant combinations. But much of that under the surface learning comes from them listening to our language. Babies as young as 6-months can recognize familiar words like “mommy” and “daddy.”

So how can you support your baby’s language?

You are probably already doing exactly what your baby needs you to do, but maybe you have doubts about it or don’t realize how important it actually is. Do you use “baby talk” when talking with your baby? Maybe your voice becomes a little more singsong and you repeat words more often? Researchers, who study baby talk or “child-directed speech,” have found that it is important for language development. You may have heard the opposite, that simplifying language could be detrimental when in fact, using “baby talk” is probably one of  the best things you can do to help them develop language.

Think about what baby talk sounds like. We use a singsong and higher pitch voice, repetition, longer pauses, and exaggerated pronunciation and expressions. All of these features work to capture your baby’s attention. Babies prefer listening to child-directed speech over regular speech and by the time they are 5-months-old they show greater emotional reactions when listening to child-directed speech compared to regular speech.

When you think about it makes sense. Child-directed speech is simpler and slower making it easier for infants to understand the social and emotional meaning of the interaction. It also helps babies develop language. In one study, researchers found that a toddler’s vocabulary was larger when their parents repeated more words when they were 7-months old.

Our instinct to use cute words and change our voices when we talk to babies was well designed to promote language development, probably in more ways than we know!

So, don’t hold back on the baby talk, it’s exactly what you are supposed to do!

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Hi I’m Ashley! I'm a mom and a child development psychologist. Once I became a parent, I had so many more questions! I realized we have so much yet to learn. I write about issues that affect us all as parents, drawing from research and experts in my field. Please email me topics or questions you'd like to see discussed as well!
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