Is baby talk bad for my baby’s language development?

With the recent spotlight cast on the importance of talking to your baby so that they do well in school later, many of you may be asking, “What about baby talk?” We all love cooing and speaking nonsense words to our baby for fun, but if grammar and vocabulary skills are forming at this stage, then are we setting our kids back in their language and speech development by not speaking to them properly?

What research shows

Reading about the research, three critical factors emerge when looking at how talking to babies affect their language and speech development. They are:

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  • How much you talk to your baby
  • The variety of words you use when talking to your baby
  •  The way you talk to your baby

It is important not to only zoom in on one of the factors without considering the others. People who speak a lot to their babies, invariably, use more words in talking to them. So does it matter if some of those words are nonsensical or made up? Not if they just make up part of the whole communication picture.

Baby talk vs. proper language

Are there cases when baby talk can be bad? Well, if you hardly ever talk to your baby, and when you do, you only use baby talk, that might be a problem. How will your baby be exposed to language structure if he or she doesn’t hear you using it?

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So if we want the best for our child, should we use Queen’s English 24/7? Think about what this means for you. While making an effort to speak better isn’t a bad thing at all, if you have to make an effort to speak correctly all the time, does this mean you will end up talking less to your baby because of the extra effort?

Also, let’s admit that baby talk is fun. And interacting with your baby should be fun. There is a lot more to communication than just instilling grammar structure. When you use baby talk, your baby may know that you’re playing and having fun.

In short, you should expose your baby to as much language as possible, in both English and his or her mother tongue. But there’s no need to set strict rules for yourself. Indulging in baby talk can be a fun way of bonding with your baby too.

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Other factors

Lastly, remember that talking to your baby is not the “be all and end all” of language development. Your baby will learn language skills all through childhood. Teaching other things like a love for reading, confidence and healthy self esteem will all help your child to love learning and do well in school.

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