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Teach Your Baby to Talk

Teach Your Baby to Talk

Baby talk from 0-6 months

Studies show speaking "baby talk" with infants can help them learn language. Most adults speak differently to infants than they do to other adults. Infant-directed speech or "parentese" is slower, has a higher pitch, longer pauses, more repetition and simplified sentence structure. Studies show babies not only prefer parentese, but it helps them learn language by focusing their attention and making it easier for them to recognize individual words and patterns.

"The lyrical way we talk to babies naturally draws their attention," says Bingham. "Deaf parents do the same sort of singsong, but with their hands ‘parentese' becomes ‘gesturese.' All babies are born with the ability to react to both–babies babble with their hands and voices, but with hearing parents there's a drop off in the amount of gesture babble their infants use."

In the first few months, your baby plays with sound by experimenting with pitch, blowing raspberries and coughing for attention. "At this stage, your face and hands are more interesting than objects," says Bingham.  "Focus on interactions between you and your baby, don't always make it about the toys." When your baby "talks" to you, answer back. Imitate and repeat the sounds she makes, pause so she can respond–and you'll be having a "conversation" in no time.

"Label what they're seeing, what they're doing and what you're doing using simple words and signs," says Bingham. "I call it ‘narrating their world.'" So, when you're going through your daily routine, talk about what you're doing. "Say and sign ‘bath' and get really excited and eventually you'll notice a response," says Bingham.

"When we teach signing, we focus on key words–nouns and verbs. Signing makes you emphasize nouns and verbs and it slows down your speech. You also end up repeating the word more often." Repetition is key, she says. Repeat words, babbling and gestures from the beginning; then repeat your infant's words back to her as she acquires a vocabulary.

By end of 6 months your infant may:

  • Babble with inflection
  • Respond to her name
  • Respond to sound by making sounds
  • Babble chains of consonants (usually sounds for m, b, d)
  • Use her voice to express pleasure and displeasure