Ever wonder why grown-ups turn to mush when they see a baby? They suddenly start talking in a high-pitched voice with a sing-song cadence. Scientists call this “Parentese” – and are convinced there are good reasons for it.
Babies are natural imitators. When you interact with them, they try to imitate the behaviors they encounter, including speech. Since their vocal cords are only one-quarter the size of an adult’s, they can only “do” high pitches. And stretched-out vowel sounds are more distinct, so it’s easier for babies to discriminate between them.
A friendly, sing-song cadence—without harsh inflections—lets babies separate sounds into contrasting groupings. And everything about these interactions is reassuring, giving baby a sense of safety.
Down the road, your early parentese conversations with your little one can contribute to speech ability, fluency, and even academic performance. So go ahead and chat, without the least bit of self-consciousness.
Article content is based on research by Dr. John Medina. Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of the best sellers, Brain Rules and Brain Rules for Baby.