Have you had the experience that when you are handed a baby you suddenly lose all your ability to talk normally? You start elongating your words, and your sentence have a rhythmic pattern to them? This is parantese. It used to be known as motherese but has now changed to include all parents which is great as it’s not just the mum who chats to her baby like this.
A lot of research has been conducted about Parentese and it turns out we shouldn’t feel silly doing it as it serves a vital role in children’s development. Drawing out vowels and varying pitch helps children learn where one word ends and another begins. We are also emphasising, giving children clear models of the sounds that make up words.
Do you exaggerate your facial expressions when talking to your baby? If so great, this helps them learn all about social interaction and they really love that one to one eye contact with you so it’s great for bonding too.
When you use parentese, important language centres are activated in your babies’ brains. Non-invasive brain scans showed that not only do the listening areas of your baby’s brain light the movement-planning areas light up as well! This shows that babies are actually rehearsing the movements to produce speech as early as 7 months, long before they begin talking.
In the video clip below we can see a baby looking at someone talking using parentese and talking without. The baby very quickly loses interest in the normal talking voice showing how much babies enjoy us making silly voices and sounds and they listen to us far more when we are.
You don’t have to simplify your language when you talk to a baby. You can still use the same sentences as you would normally but we naturally use that sing song way of talking to them and now we know why!
By elongating vowels, using a high pitch and exaggerating facial expressions, your baby will often pick up words faster as their brains begin to “map” the sounds they hear from talking in a way that gets their attention.
Your baby’s brain will triple in size during the first three years of their life. That means, every interaction they make with you and the world is a key to boosting brainpower. Not only does the slow, exaggerated sounds of parentese hold their attention, but it gives them clues on how to breakdown sentences, while building their vocabulary.
Remember your voice is one of the most important sounds to a baby as they will have heard it in the womb and by responding to their gurgles and babbles you are building a wonderful bond with them as well as helping them learn!