Tweaking the way you speak to a baby or child could accelerate their speech, language and vocabulary.
If you’re a parent or carer of a baby or young child, you probably schedule time for reading. But are there other ways you can promote language and speech development in everyday life? Enhancing key skills and vocabulary may be as simple as using a style of communication called ‘parentese’ according to new research at the University of Washington. While research showed that babies acquired greater vocabulary when exposed to parentese, it may also be helpful for older children with speech, language and communication difficulties. How to use it?
What is parentese? A style of communication that uses exaggerated speech elements such as vowel elongation (‘baaaaa-naaaaaa-naaaaaa’), varied pitch (high and low), a slow speech rate and simplified wording. Try to sound excited or enthusiastic, but without speeding up.
How does it work? Exaggerated articulation and varied pitch helps little ones to distinguish between words. The variation may also cause greater interest and engagement and encourage participation or mimicry. You may also use your child’s favourite songs. Often, children’s songs already exaggerate enunciation, but consider singing along with extra emphasis.
Mistakes to avoid? Don’t confuse ‘parentese’ with ‘baby talk’ (the former uses real words while the latter uses cute noises and made-up words).
If your toddler or child is struggling with aspects of speech, language or communication, consider consulting a children’s speech pathologist, who can provide exercises to develop important, lifelong skills.