Best Ways to Talk to Your Baby
Learn how to speak “parentese.”
- Grades: Infant
By Craig T. Ramey, Ph.D., and Sharon L. Ramey, Ph.D.
Most of you know the principles of effective teaching. The keys are to:
Speak close to and directly facing your baby, with frequent eye contact (although this may vary from one culture to another).
Use other cues and gestures to increase meaning and enjoyment.
Use "parentese," especially in the early months. This is speech with a singsong or up-down quality and a slightly higher pitch. Speak a bit slower. These attributes will help make language especially engaging to your baby.
Simplify your speech. Shorten your sentences. Use lots of repetition. Refer to concrete objects and specific events things your infant can understand. Make sounds that are easy to understand.
Expand on what your child says. When she says something simple, such as "throw ball," respond with her name, saying "throw Amy the ball." Expand "see car" to "See the car go by." Transform "Go bye-bye" into "Mom and Amy are going bye-bye." You may be surprised how naturally you do this.
If you are inexperienced around babies, you may feel self-conscious about using "parentese" and not try it. Go ahead. It can be fun, and it does grab and hold your baby's attention longer than plain adult speech.
Learn New Words Together
The beginning of true conversation just as infancy draws to a close should be very rewarding for you. Through language you will get an even clearer understanding of your baby's uniqueness and charm. Be willing to follow his curiosity and learn new words about new interests. How many parents have become experts in trucks, flowers, birds, or seashells because of their child! But don't forget to introduce him to your favorite things and words as well. Pretty soon, you will be discussing philosophy and values and all sorts of fascinating things.