Baby talk: Mini Parenting Master Class

Discover how to engage in baby talk with your little one and why it's important.

Baby talk may sound silly to you, but not to your child! In the first 1,000 days, your baby’s brain develops at a pace never repeated again. Baby talk helps give your child the best start in life.

We sat down with Dr. Marina Kalashnikova, who researches how babies learn language, to find out what baby talk is and why it's the most important language in the world.

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Baby talk for parents

We teamed up with the H&M Foundation to launch Baby Talk For Parents, an interactive course to practise the most important language in the world – baby talk. Test your baby talk skills!

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Transcript of 'Baby talk: Mini Parenting Master Class' video

"Hi! My name is Dr. Marina Kalashnikova and this is my Mini Parenting Master Class on baby talk.

I am a researcher and I study how babies learn language.

What is baby talk?

Baby talk is much more than just a silly and cute way of talking to babies. Actually, baby talk is more about how we say things. When parents or other caregivers use baby talk, they use normal language. But they make it simpler: they repeat words a lot and speak slower.

We also exaggerate our facial expressions when we talk to a baby. So, for example, we open our mouths wider, we raise our eyebrows, and we smile a lot.

So, a baby can not only just hear baby talk but they can also see it.

Why is baby talk important?

Parents should immerse their babies in speech. Listening to more baby talk helps babies build their own language abilities. Baby talk works like a spotlight – babies hear a lot of sounds around them. But when they hear baby talk, they know that it’s time to start listening and paying attention.

This happens for two reasons:

First, baby talk is easier to listen to. When babies are very young, they do not understand the meanings of words. But they hear the exaggerated pitch in baby talk and they learn from it.

Second, babies like listening to baby talk. They like the exaggerated melodic patterns and the positive emotions in baby talk. This helps them pay more attention to it, compared to speech that we use with adults.

When should I use baby talk?

When we see a baby, most of us instinctively use baby talk. But it still does not come naturally to everyone. Parents should start practising baby talk from early on so they can learn what type of baby talk to use.

The best time to practise baby talk is when you engage in daily routines with your baby. For example, when you’re feeding, bathing, or playing with your baby. If you want to add a little more variety to what you say, you could also try describing pictures in books or describing your baby’s favourite toys, which they would like very much.

Baby talk helps babies establish a special bond and connection with their parents, which makes them feel loved, safe, and comfortable.

Baby talk also stimulates babies’ brains, preparing them for the difficult task of learning language.

Protection and stimulation are two of the three things that are very important for early brain development. The third one is healthy eating or nutrition. Together, we call them “Eat, Play, and Love”."

Dr. Marina Kalashnikova leads the MARCS BabyLab at University of Western Sydney where she investigates how babies learn language.