Learning to speak ‘parentese’

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By Dr. Aliza Pressman Co-Founding Director of the Mount Sinai Parenting Center, Co-Founder of seedlingsgroup, via healthynest

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Ovia Health.

When parents and caregivers talk and converse with infants, the way your voice sounds will change the way your baby learns language. Not only does speaking to your baby directly have a wonderfully positive impact on their development, but the way we speak to them is also important – certain styles of speaking are more appealing to our babies, and therefore create stronger connections. ‘Parentese’ is the style that has been shown to engage baby the most effectively. And the great news is that parentese is actually something we as parents and caregivers do naturally.

What does it sound like? When we speak in parentese, we use a high pitched sing-song voice, and even though it may sound like baby talk to some people, it is highly engaging. For example, when you are chatting with your babies during a diaper change in parentese, you would say something like: “Hello, I’m so happy to see you. What’s this? Is this a dirty diaper? Let’s change your diaper.”

When we speak to our babies in different sing-song patterns, it’s exciting for them to hear, which means they are much more inspired to listen! As they watch your mouth and look at your eyes lighting up and your exaggerated facial expressions, they are learning language.

And while it may not always feel like it, it is a conversation! Whenever your baby makes sounds, (any kinds of sounds!) let them finish without interrupting them. Let them know that you’re listening to them, because they are practicing speaking.

And when you think about it, when infants begin to babble, it sounds like they’re having a real conversation. They’re imitating you. They’re really practicing the rhythm of conversations. And then finally they get to a language that you understand using the words that you understand, and you expand those words and help them make them bigger. You validate that you can hear them and that they should continue to try and speak and communicate. And then before you know it, you have yourself a talking little toddler.

Please visit healthynesting.com to see Aliza speak live and give real examples of engaging ways to converse with your baby.

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