I was talking with my neighbor the other day about raising kids and he said, “Yeah, my boy has some behavioral issues, and we did everything we were supposed to do." He listed a few things like we don’t put him in front of screens, he plays outside a lot, and he also said, “and we never talked to him like he was a baby.”
I thought “Uh oh. Am I not supposed to be talking to my little June like she’s a baby because I do all the time!” She’s too cute not to. I mean I even talk to my husband and dog in baby talk… it’s just how we roll around here.
That exact day I read in Thirty Million Words that baby talking to your baby is not only okay, but good for your baby’s executive function and self-regulation development.
Here’s what the author of TMW has to say about baby talk: “Just hearing the natural sequence of sounds, it turns out, puts a baby on the path to self-regulation and executive function. This is because, during the process of learning a language, the brain, hearing a series of sounds, actually begins to develop a framework for processing things sequentially, which, in turn, is a precursor for planning and executing reactions, an important aspect of executive function and self-regulation (Suskind, p. 116). So, hearing a sequence of sounds through my baby talk is building a path for her self-regulation and executive function much more than my normal monotone voice would. Score!
“Just as babies use sounds to get attention, parents do it, too, changing their tone and pitch to entice and appeal. As we’ve discussed, “child-directed speech,” also called baby talk or parentese, helps a baby’s brain learn the language. In a recent study of children from eleven to fourteen months old, those who had heard more child-directed speech knew, at two years of age, twice as many words as those who had been exposed to more adult-directed speech. But child-directed speech serves another important function in the parent-child relationship. Used by parents with young children throughout the world, in an array of structurally diverse languages, including indigenous languages of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia, its melodic pitch, positive tone, simplified vocabulary, and singsong rhythm a few octaves higher than usual entices a child into shared attention. Parents who take pride in never speaking baby talk, speaking to their infants only in the way they’d speak to an adult, are missing an important point: that this kind of talk does not “dumb down” content. By appealing to a baby’s ears, it helps to draw attention to what is being said, and to who is saying it, encouraging the child to be attentive, to be engaged, and to interact.” (Suskind, p. 137 & 138)
So, there you have it, folks. Baby talking to your baby helps a baby’s brain learn. Thank goodness because baby talking to my daughter was so instinctual for me, I don’t know if I could shut it off. All the “hey boogie boogie”, “hi my little love bug”, and “did you pooooooop (very high inflection) your pants” will continue around my house.