Baby Talk is More Than Gobbledegook

Sam Flatman, an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport, explains why baby babble is so important for your child's development. 

While to us parents it might seem like our babies are just babbling away and having fun, they are actually developing their speech and language skills early on. Many of us parents with speak gibberish back, which is great for strengthening the bond between parent and child, but it turns out that infants really prefer listening to the sounds of other babies than of adults.

Babies prefer to hear other babies

A new study from researchers at McGill University in Canada measured how long an infant listened to the sound of different voices repeating the same vowel sound. The sounds were made by a synthesizer and included both childlike and adult voices. The results revealed that babies were more interested in the infant voice and paid attention to those sounds for 40% longer.

Many of the babies who took part in the experiment also changed their facial expression when listening to other infant voices. While listening to adult voices their facial expression remained neutral, but upon hearing a younger voice babies began to move their mouth or even smile as they were listening to the recording.

Why do babies prefer listening to other infants?

There are a couple of theories of why this may be true, but these have not yet been confirmed. Researchers think that the preference might be because babies like to hear sounds similar to their own speech and they recognise the sounds as ones which they are also able to make.

This idea would suggest that adults speaking in baby voices could be beneficial for the development of speech and language in infants. Listening to sounds which are similar to their own can boost a baby's understanding of how to use their mouth and vocal chords.

"Perhaps, when we use a high, infant-like voice pitch to speak to our babies, we are actually preparing them to perceive their own voice," said Professor Linda Polka, senior author on the study.

What can parents do to help?

Infants love the sounds of other infants, so it’s a great idea to get together with other parents of little ones so that they can listen to each other chatting away. This could simply be inviting another mum and baby over for tea, or heading out to the park with a group of parents on the weekend. Infants will naturally make noises when they’re ready.

When at home with your baby, parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to baby talk too. Researchers think that babies prefer high pitched tones and so this could be a really helpful way to develop your baby’s communication skills. Make sure to keep good eye contact and use facial expressions to communicate emotions too.

About the Author: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5,000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.

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