How to Talk to Your Baby

You play “peek-a-boo” with your baby. You talk to her while you’re changing her diaper. You sing to her as you rock her to sleep. And when she happily coos, babbles, and gurgles, you make those sounds right along with her.

It’s fun, but it’s also crucial to her development.

Her young brain is soaking up the sounds, tones, and language she’ll use to say her first words. You play a big role. Children who have parents who talk to them often tend to form stronger language and conversational skills than kids who don’t.

The best way to speak to your little one may be what comes most naturally: that sing-songy way many of us speak to infants — “How are youuu?!” “You want the baaaall?” It’s baby talk, and it can fuel your child’s language development.

Why It’s Good for Your Baby’s Brain

Infants tend to pay more attention and respond more eagerly to baby talk than to normal adult conversation. The playfully exaggerated and high-pitched tone your voice takes lights up your little one’s mind.

Eighty percent of her brain’s physical development happens during her first 3 years. As her brain gets bigger, it also forms the connections it needs to think, learn, and process information. These connections, called synapses, form at a super-fast rate, about 700 per second in the first few years.

Speaking to your baby fires up those important synapses in the part of her brain that handles language. The more words she hears, the stronger those mental connections get. That process can strengthen your child’s future language skills and her overall ability to learn.

Infants who get more baby talk know more words by age 2 than their peers.

Baby Talk Basics

For your little one to get the most benefits:

  1. Talk with her often. Talkative parents tend to have talkative children.

  2. Get some alone time with your infant. Baby talk is most beneficial when it’s one-on-one between parent and child, with no other adults or children around.

  3. When your baby tries to talk back to you, don’t interrupt or look away. She needs to know you care about listening to her.

  4. Look your child in the eyes. She’ll respond better to speech when she’s looking right at you.

  5. Limit how much TV she sees and hears. Too much can stunt language growth. Besides, you’re more fun than the voice on the screen, right?

  6. Throw in some grown-up speak, too. Your baby needs to hear how words sound in everyday conversation.

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