BookmarkBookmarkTick

Here’s the Right Way to Get Your Baby to Be More Verbal, According to Experts

It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Updated
November 27, 2018

When you become a parent, you start to speak another language: Parentese. The style of speech is associated with talking slowly and clearly with exaggerated vowels and intonation, and is believed to improve infant language. But mastering the true art of the language is not as easy as many think. And, according to a new study, there is a major difference in a child’s vocabualry for those who are “fluent” in parentese, and those who fall just a bit short.

In the study, researchers used audio recordings of participating families’ typical weekends who had babies who were 6 months old. They were asked to record two weekend days when babies were 6, 10 and 14 months old. Parents were also randomly assigned into two groups—a control and a coaching group.

While both groups were recorded, those in the coaching group participated in individual parent coaching sessions where they received language-interaction and “brain building” tips and discussed their recordings with the coach. Babies whose parents received coaching during the study were significantly more verbal by 14 months old.

“Most parents know that the amount of language their child hears is important. What we shared with them through coaching is that how they talk to their baby may matter even more,” said Naja Ferjan Ramírez, the lead author of the study. “We explained to them the research behind parentese, and made sure they were aware of the connection between their language input, and their speaking style in particular, and their baby’s language outcomes.”

According to the study, parents in the coached group increased the use of parentese by 15 percent when babies were between 6 and 14 months. Parents in the control group showed less growth in their strategies, averaging about 7 percent.

And babies of coached families babbled in about 43 percent of the analyzed recordings, while control babies babbled in 30 percent of the recordings. In addition, coaching group babies had a much larger vocabulary at 14 months than control babies.

The takeaway? Parentese is not what many people think of as “baby talk.” While most tend to lace together silly sounds and words, there’s a lot more involved in communicating with baby. Parentese is fully-grammatical speech using real words, elongated vowels and exaggerated tones. To put it simply, it sounds happy and conveys total engagement with your kid. When you speak the language correctly, it helps baby tune in to you and motivates him to talk back, even if he’s just making babbling noises.

Wondering when baby will start to speak up a little more? Find out what ages babies typically start talking and how you can encourage them along the way.

Big sister crawling behind baby sister down hallway at home.

Babies’ Language Skills May Be More Advanced Than First Words Suggest

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
04/23/2021
mom helps her toddler learn through app in the car

Toddler FaceTime Games That Boost Verbal Skills and Family Bonds

profile picture of Jocelyn M. Wood, CCC-SLP
Jocelyn M. Wood, CCC-SLP
Speech language pathologist

Toddler Speech Delay?

profile picture of Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and pediatrician at Loyola University Health System
Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and pediatrician at Loyola University Health System
Pediatrician

Signs of Speech or Developmental Delay in a Toddler?

profile picture of Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Pediatrician
mom holding and embracing her one year old son

How to Boost Baby’s Speech Sound Development in Their First Year

profile picture of Jocelyn M. Wood, CCC-SLP
Jocelyn M. Wood, CCC-SLP
Speech language pathologist
older child playing with toddler outside in gardens

Toddlers Learn More Words by Listening to Other Children

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
05/20/2019
happy toddler talking to her parent

How to Boost Your Toddler’s Intelligence Without Really Trying

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
05/07/2019
toddler holding open book

Kids Who Are Read to Before Kindergarten Know 1 Million More Words Than Peers

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
04/05/2019
happy one year old girl held by her mom

New Study Sheds Light on How Babies Learn to Speak a Language

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
03/28/2019
jwoww talks about her son's autism diagnosis

Jenni 'JWoww' Farley Opens Up About Her Son's Autism Diagnosis

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
11/29/2018
baby girl signing with her mom and smiling

The Basics (and Benefits) of Baby Sign Language

profile picture of Julie D. Andrews
Julie D. Andrews
Contributing Writer
Article removed.