When parents talk to their babies, they often sound a lot like the babies themselves. That s because adults tend to speak to their infants slowly and in a much higher voice. But is that good for the kids? Linda Morgan, editor of Parentmap Magazine and author of the book Beyond Smart, shares how infants learn language.

Is it ok to talk baby talk to our babies?

Yes. It s also important to talk in normal tones using grown-up words. But talking in a raised pitch and a slower tempo- and drawing out the sounds of the words plays a big role in helping them develop language skills. We call this parentese. And it s instinctive parents do this all over the world. And babies love it. Do you see the train? There goes the train!

What else helps babies learn language?

Kids learn language though pretend play, through gestures, making faces called mirroring - and even when you simply repeat their sounds. So coo right back to them. They are trying to figure out how conversation works. Sing using motions with songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider. Your baby is learning about imitating your movements. And talk to them all the time. Describe their day. Now we are getting into the car and going to the store. Let s find some orange juice.

How does reading to small children help nurture language development?

Reading helps develop language skills, particularly when parents point out objects in the book and ask their children questions about them. Even when they don t understand the words, they are learning how language works. Read to your kids from day one!

What can parents to do help their babies communicate?

Use parentese. Speak slowly and in a higher pitched voice. They respond to that and actually learn words more easily and quickly.

Keep talking. Say, Where s the horse? That s right, there s the horse. Let your child get involved by turning the pages or pointing to illustrations. By helping your child actively read and point to pictures and flip through the book in any order, you make reading more child directed and interactive.

Make reading fun. Sing, recite poems, talk about what you are doing. Go through you day and narrate it. Now we are going in the car. We re going to get some milk at the store. Label and explain objects. This is a ball. We play with a ball. The ball is round. It can roll!

Stop correcting. That can frustrate small children. Let them make mistakes when they are just trying to figure out how language works. And enjoy those mistakes while you can. When they re 10, they are not going to be saying, she hitted me.

For more information on this topic, go to the ParentMap website.

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