I was invited to a couples baby shower recently.
I am such a sucker for parties. And when I pulled out the couples baby shower invitation adorned with baby goodness I was like a little kid. And the couples shower party was a very rewarding experience.
It was the interaction with the other guests. And not in the fashion you may think. Some of it was through a discussion that I had with one of the guests. She just didn’t get what a baby needs. She made several statements that led me in this direction. And one thing that struck me as odd was when one of the guests said that they hoped that the parent’s weren’t planning on talking to their baby with “baby talk”.
While it might seem annoying to you, simply put, babies and animals like high pitched cooing.
This is actually the reason you get a response from your child.
It feels safe and comforting to them. The high pitched baby talk portrays a positive emotion to babies, while grumbling or yelling would likely make a baby upset. While this easily explains tone, the type of language we use demands further explanation.
You see as parents we have a certain repertoire with our children.
We tend to say things like, “woooooooooow, who’s mommy’s big girl?” “Who’s playing with the rubber ducky? Quack Quack!”
This seemed like nonsense to one of the childless guests. And it felt like they were waisting both their time and that of the child.
Talking to an adult, we would never extend the vowel sounds or ask about the ducky, we would just say duck.
The reason is because as adults say these types of things, in short, to help children understand vocabulary and assign words to objects and actions. This is called caretaker speech.
When we exaggerate vowel sounds we are encouraging them to start imitating and speaking. This baby talk is an offer, a chance to play-by-play of what we are doing – “you are playing with the duck” – and state the obvious, “the duck is yellow, the duck has feathers”. We do this to let the child know what’s going on.
This is an effective method to held them, to teach them to talk. And studies have proven that is is more effective than telling them, through play they are learning. And this is how babies learn most things. Play is a big part of a child’s developmental state. While it might seem harder to say “this is a dog and it says woof”. We are providing them with a framework that the child can use.
When you under stand this it is clear that it is all about vocabulary building and word recognition.
But there is one more aspect that the person that asked the question was oblivious to. As a single they didn’t understand that it also helps us bond with our children.
There is a transition: our nurturing, loving, never swearing, always teaching side kicks into gear and we babble and coo away. It’s a learned social behavior that conveys to both the adult and baby that they are in a loving relationship.
Which is something that I hope that young lady has.
When I got done she seemed a little wiser. A little more understanding. And when it comes her turn to raise a child I hope that it will be one that has a more solid footing in what it means to help a child learn.