As a woman whenever a baby is handed to me I go all gooey inside and start cooing and my voice has a sing song sound to it. I cant help it, it is something I do instinctively. It is also something I have noticed many other women do also, that as well as the uncontrollable baby sway! Worryingly I found myself swaying with a basket of laundry the other day, I must be getting broody!
Interestingly the language a mother instinctively uses with her baby is called Motherese.
New research has been done regarding motherese and we have found out that using these types of changes in our pitch and rhythm when we talk to our children helps children identify where words begin and end, and provides them with the clues needed to help them develop their own language skills. Its not just mothers of course that can coo at babies, dads can do it too as well as aunts, uncles and grandparents! The most important thing is your child is talked to.
A cool study you can do at home, even with tiny babies, is to lie them on your lap with them looking up at you. Start a conversation about anything but make sure they know that you are talking to them. Maybe you could ask them a question such as hello beautiful baby, how are you feeling today? Then pause and wait for them to respond. Even tiny babies will make some response as they know that they are engaging in a conversation with you. They might gurgle or smile or simply just wriggle but that is their way currently of engaging with you. You can then respond to them and this way you are actually conversing with your baby and they absolutely love it!
Have you noticed how dads talk to babies? Often if a mother uses a lot of the vital motherese style of chatting to their baby their father will use a lot more grown up language as if they are talking to another adult. This is just as important as the use of baby talk to an infant and a child as studies have shown it provides the bridge from baby babble to coherent sentence structure. Babies and young children can actually compare the two types of speech used when their parents are talking to them and apply them to real world conversations. So it doesnt matter if a dad is talking about car mechanics or their local football match, a child will love to listen and pick up on the excitement in their dads voice.
Babies in particular love listening to their parents voices and this is a great excuse to read to your baby. You dont even have to read baby books, I have read Harry Potter to my tiny baby and she seems to enjoy it just as much as Spot goes on holiday! They will not understand what you are reading but they enjoy spending time with you and hearing you read is a great way to encourage an early love of books and a grasp of language.
In a fascinating study conducted by Harvard University, we found out that parents even read differently and both these styles impact children positively. When mothers read to their children they often focus on characters feelings. For example when reading about Spot on holiday we might say do you think he is feeling excited or a bit scared, or poor Spot has lost his luggage and that must make him sad etc. This is a fantastic opportunity for your children to really learn to empathise with others. Of course this can be used as learning lessons later on too. When faced with similar trials to those in books, I have often used do you remember how Spot felt or something similar. This is why books about having a new baby brother or sister are so popular and books about learning to use the potty work so well. Children love to empathise with characters in books and by doing so they will become kinder and more considerate adults in the future.
Fathers, when they read to their children will focus on more of the real world objects. For example a dad might be reading the same story and he will say look there is a plane in this picture, can you see the wings and the propellers? Is it like your toy plane? Children find this more cognitively challenging so it is brilliant for exercising their brains and increasing their language abilities.