Baby talk is beneficial to babies, so don’t worry about sounding stupid
According to a study released by Rutgers University, using a high-pitched voice to talk to your kids is actually good for them. My aunt will be thrilled!
“Why do we speak funny to children? It’s actually to help them learn the relevant properties of language,” according to Patrick Shafto, the associate professor of mathematics and computer science at Rutgers who conducted the research. Shafto and his colleagues created a mathematical model to predict what language would look like if it were designed to teach children how to speak, and when they were finished, it matched up closely with the kind of sing-songy sound-making we call “baby talk.”
“The sounds that are selected exaggerate the important properties that babies need to attend to and learn about,” Shafto says.
That’s all well and good, but I still hate baby talk. I have friends who use it on my kid, and it drives me crazy. Both to encourage them to learn how to speak correctly and to prevent myself from sounding ridiculous, I’ve always endeavored to speak to my children as adults. Which is actually probably equally silly and isn’t the subject of a new study, but I don’t care I’m sticking with it!
Over the course of parenting our kids, we all do a lot of things that make us look and feel silly. Whether it’s dancing along to “Yo Gabba Gabba” or making airplane noises to get them to eat a few spoonfuls of dinner or struggling to understand common core so we can help with math homework. Half-singing in a high-pitched voice is probably the least embarrassing thing most of us do over the course of the day.
This study claims that our kids will pick up speaking skills more quickly if we debase ourselves by using baby talk. Now we have the perfect excuse for not feeling silly when we talk like Olive Oyl from Popeye. Hooray for us for not feeling like idiots! At least not until our kids start talking a lot earlier than usual because of this strategy!
Baby talk makes me feel stupid, but nothing makes me feel more stupid than the fact that I spent months pining for my now five-year-old to be able to talk, because once he started he’s literally never stopped. Right now he’s in the other room filibustering to my wife about the Scooby-Doo episode he just watched. In agonizing detail. We never used baby talk, and thank god we didn’t, because apparently if we had, the kid might have started talking even earlier than he did.
Nowadays I look back on those early months of nothing but goos and gagas as some of the quietest of my parenting life. There were no soliloquies about terrible TV shows, no inappropriate language when we’re out at dinner, no talking back. So more power to Rutgers and those parents who use baby talk, but I’ma stick with speaking in my normal voice.
In fact, I might stop speaking to my six-month-old entirely. I should probably just use sign language.