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Small Talk

Conversation comes before words

In talking to my babies, I sometimes felt like I was a tour guide to a visitor from another planet. "Okay, bunny! Now we eat. Here's your spoon. Here's your sippy cup. Cuppy, cuppy! Mmmm! Do you like your cuppy?" (For full effect, reread in a high-pitched, singsong, peppy way.) Speech experts call this way of talking "child-directed speech," or "parentese."

Most parents of young children can't help it  -- a higher tone and shorter utterances, with an emphasis on key words, just comes out instinctively. Turns out it's not only engaging, but it helps your little one learn new words faster.

Another key feature of parentese is pauses, as if we're waiting for the baby to take his turn in the dialogue. You say, "Hey, boo boo! How are you?" And then your baby goes, "Goo goo goo!" back.

Your role: Talk to your baby long before you think he can understand you. Leave pauses for your baby to "reply." These are the first steps in the amazing dance of conversation. Don't worry that you sound silly or are "talking down" to your baby. In fact, you're talking in a way that's age-appropriate.