Baby talk; good, bad or just plain creepy?

You know that voice that we sometimes use to talk to babies, young children or tiny purse dogs? The one where our voice goes to the top of our vocal register and we add the letter “Y” to the end of words, even though it sounds really dumb? It’s often referred to as “parentese” but most of us just know it as baby talk.

Let me just deliver the goods upfront and say that there is mixed research as to the benefit of this for children and so I do not have a definitive answer as to whether or not it is good or bad but I can tell you this; it really just creeps me out. That said, here’s my take.

The good: One thing that a lot of studies suggest is that baby talk is a valuable rhetorical tool to employ on your babies from birth to 12 months. It’s not rocket science, speaking in a singsong voice grabs your child’s attention. The more attention they are paying to your language, the greater ease with which they will grasp their own language. So there’s that. I have personally seen how detrimental it can be for a young child who’s parents don’t make an effort to communicate with them regularly. Their language skills suffer as a result and they are at an obvious disadvantage. My take away from this data is basically that a child with engaged parents will naturally flourish.

The bad: Speaking in a high, singsong voice will grab your child’s attention and that can be good. Making up nonsensical words while you do this will teach them nonsensical words which is counterproductive to the goal of fostering your child’s linguistic savvy. Nobody “whoopsies der widdle footsie.” For your child’s sake, quit teaching them to talk like a moron. Kids are smart, respect this fact.

The creepy; I totally get the temptation to use baby talk on a baby. But when I hear it used on a two year old my stomach physically cringes for the kid. Especially when it’s a parent who is alternating between that voice and their normal voice while conversing with an adult at the same time. Do you not think your kid is paying attention? That’s all kids do! They are aware that you are patronizing them. More importantly though, you sound like an idiot. I know, this is harsh. Sorry, not sorry. Of course, we parents write our own “how to” manual, so speak to your kid how you wish. Just don’t get upset when my kids cant understand a word they say.