Talk to your baby

How should I talk to my baby?

Research has shown that “baby talk” has a vital role to play in communicating with babies. It’s instinctively simple and keeps communication at a level that your baby can pick up.

When talking with your baby, remember to exaggerate your tone of voice. Place an emphasis on  significant words and adopt a sing-song tone when talking to your baby and you’ll see the delights it brings. It doesn’t matter if your baby doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they will really enjoy the attention. You are already fluent in the wonderful language of “parentese!”


Ever heard of parentese? A language we all know!

The sing-song speech, often accompanied by exaggerated facial expressions, seems to be readily used by almost everyone who talks to a baby. Parentese helps babies learn language. The elongated vowels, high pitch, exaggerated facial expressions and short, simple sentences actually help babies learn language. Parentese is  different from baby talk because baby talk uses sounds and nonsense words. Parentese uses actual words, in short and simple sentences, often repeated over and over again.

Example: When Carla spoke parentese to her baby, she sounded like this, “Whoose a prettyy baybeee?”“Who’s my li-i-ttle baybee? Are you my littlee baybee? Yes, yoooo are!”


Talk, talk, talk

Talk as much as possible to your baby. They will be taking in a lot more than you may think. In the busy day to day routines feeding, changing, and soothing, it’s is important  to keep talking about different things which attract baby’s interests. Follow the  gaze of your baby to see what they find exciting. If they are reaching for your tea cup or staring at an ornament there are lots of opportunities to provide more information. Using simple terms to describe what the object does, or its size, colour can provide lots of opportunities for varied talk and try to build up a habit of describing what you are doing, almost providing a running commentary of the activities of the day.

“Its a car. A big blue car. Brrrrrrm. A car!”

“Putting the toys in the box. In they go. Toys into the box”

“Yes. Milk! We are drinking our milk. Yum, yum, yum!”


Share a Book

In the early months, reading is about the  shared experience, the words, the familiarity, the tone of voice and closeness. In the digital age, there is “no app that can replace your lap” and a favourite book!  As you cuddle together, talk about the pictures any way you like—you don’t have to stick to the story line. A book can be different every time you read it. Touch-and-feel books are great for babies 6 months and under, when the senses are a primary tool, and picture books with no words at all can free you to make up your own tale. Reading to your baby can inspire a richer use of vocabulary and provide fun themes you might not have thought of on your own.

Try these brilliant books :

1: Peepo: Janet and Allan Ahlberg

2: We’re going on a bear hunt : Michael Rosen

3: You Choose: Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

4: Owl Babies: Martin Waddell

5: Guess How Much I Love You: Sam McBratney


Dialogue not monologue

Babies will quickly become disengaged with a single voiced lecture so it is important to allow them chance to respond. “Do you see the cat?” A baby may reply , “gooh boo go!” so to continue the conversation say, “Yes, she’s sleeping in her bed.” Likewise, be sure to answer your baby when they gurgle and  babble. That teaches a  baby  how a conversation works and lets them  know you care about what they  have to say. How you respond isn’t the most important thing at this age. A simple comment based on  what your baby is pointing at, or just a general remark “Look at that big smile!”, or even something completely unrelated keeps the interactions frequent and engaging “Is it going to rain today?”


Songs And Rhymes

There are countless opportunities to sing traditional and new songs and rhymes across the day. The melodies are engaging and introduce repetition, prediction and familiarity with language. It is so easy to change words, for example, to introduce your baby’s name or familiar toys and people. There are no rules, songs and rhymes are fun and an essential part of early language development.

Here are 5 popular rhymes:

  • Humpty Dumpty.
  • Row Row Row The Boat.
  • Ring A Ring A Roses.
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
  • The Wheels On The Bus

This example is to the tune of The Wheels on The Bus and shows how easy it is to adapt words, in this case to accompany a hand holding and moving game.

“Charlie’s hands go up and down, up and down , up and down, Charlie’s hands go up and down, all day long!”


Turn Off the TV: Language development needs interactions

It is easy to  assume that babies benefit from all language, but lots of television can of course  be detrimental. Researchers have found that babies between 8 and 16 months knew six to eight fewer vocabulary words for every hour per day that they watched DVDs geared to infants. The  main reason for this is that the to-and-fro of social interaction is essential to speech development. A TV character doesn’t react to your baby, but when you smile and reply to your little one’s babbles, they  know they did something right and feel encouraged to do it again. There is a huge amount  of research evidence and data to show that the more human conversations a baby has, the further their  language develops.


Smartphones and tablets: Stop, drop and talk


The fast-paced digital world of facebook, emails, you tube and the online environment  available in our pockets anywhere and everywhere is something which brings many exciting possibilities, along with risks to be aware of. Babies need language and interaction. How easy is it for a 2 minute email check to become a 30 minute “What’s app “ chat, online shopping spree or digital news round up?  If a baby is awake and alert the simple phrase “stop, drop and talk” provides an important reminder.  Babies need language and interaction.


Development Summary

Baby’s age

Key Development

Helpful activities

0-3 Months Crying for the early months, beginning to “coo” in response to voices Lots of “parentese” elongated words, exaggerated expressions.
4-6 Months More cooing, beginning to laugh and babble. Following interests and introducing words to all situations. Find opportunities to engage and promote babbling.
7-9 Months Babbling and imitation, developing more sounds. Nursery rhymes and stories. Lots of repetition and playing with words
10 to 12 Months Moving towards recognisable words, developing chains of babbled sounds, different vowels and consonants and intonation. Lots of interactive games, turn taking and conversations as a two way process.


Talk to your baby: 5 top tips

1. Take turns and have model conversations

2. Play with the tone, pace and pitch of your voice.

3. Read books together. Try “You Choose” by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt. It is perfect and different every time you read it.

4. Stop, drop and talk! Be wary of digital distractions.

5. Sing songs and share rhymes. As much as you can!