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The Benefits of Parentese on Language Development

We’ve noticed some confusion between the terms “baby talk” and “parentese”, also known as “motherese”, in the clinic. We thought it may be beneficial to clarify these terms and talk about the benefits of parentese on your child’s language acquisition. 

Baby talk is generally a mash-up of silly sounds and nonsense words. It may include made-up words such as “num nums” for a snack and is not always grammatical. In comparison, parentese “is fully grammatical speech that involves real words, elongated vowels and exaggerated tones of voice. Spoken directly to the child, it sounds happy and engaged, and helps infants tune in socially to their parents and respond, even if only through babbling.” (Washington Edu, 2020) 

The infamous YouTuber, Mrs. Rachel, is known for her use of parentese on her channel. Her use of a slower tempo and higher pitched voice are engaging to children and invite them to respond or imitate. The simple linguistic structure and exaggerated sounds serve as a social hook for the baby brain and make language easier to learn. 

In our speech therapy sessions with infants and toddlers at Discover Speech Therapy, we use parentese as a strategy for language development and hope to educate you on ways to use the strategy at home to further progress your child’s communication. Here are our best tips for using parentese at home with your child:

  • In addition to voice/language changes, frequently use social cues, such as increased facial expressions, and gestures, such as pointing
  • Give your child plenty of time to respond (silently count to 3 after you speak)
  • Acknowledge any response (whether it be a look, gesture, babble, or true word) and continue the conversation (Seattleite, 2019)

We hope this information was helpful in understanding the benefits of using parentese at home.  We also understand that using parentese may not be natural to you, and we can help!  Give Discover Speech Therapy a call to see about getting started with speech therapy.