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Erin van Vuuren

How Should I Be Talking to Baby?

It feels so weird to have one-sided conversations. I know I should talk to baby, but how exactly should I do it?

Chitchatting with your infant can feel a little like talking to a tree at first — but once you get going, it won’t be so weird.

Take turns

Baby can’t say actual words yet, but Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology at Temple University and author of _How Babies Talk _and Einstein Never Used Flashcards, says it’s crucial to start having “conversations” when baby is an infant.

Maybe she can’t talk, but she can hear. And move. And spit. Maybe grunt. Take that and roll with it. “Have conversational duets,” says Hirsh-Pasek. “You say, ‘What did you say? Right — you just moved your arm!’ It will come as naturally as if you’re singing a song with your baby.” You can talk about baby’s funny faces or movements, or about whatever she’s looking at. Just remember to give her a turn to respond.

The back and forth is key. “Contribute as much as baby is, and have her contribute as much as you are. Don’t take over — that way it’s a duet, not a solo,” says Hirsh-Pasek, explaining that early conversation skills can predict early language ability, and even how she’ll do in school.

Talk crazy if you want

You’ll probably want baby to pick up some real words eventually, but it’s okay to babble, baby talk or just make crazy noises if you feel the urge. “It’s absolutely fine. Remember: Our children are seeping up so much. And part of what they have to seep up is the turn-taking,” Hirsh-Pasek says.

Above all – respond

In a study by the University of Iowa and Indiana University, babies’ language skills advanced sooner if their moms responded to their babbling more often. So if baby “goos” all by herself, say something — even a “ga” — right back.

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Photo: Getty Images