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How to Speak Baby Talk Fluently

Your playful conversations can help your child become a skillful communicator

When my daughter Carolyn was learning to talk, she often said, "I coming, Mommy." Sometimes her phrase was a question. When she saw me pull on my jacket and pocket the car keys, she'd look at me with a twinkle in her chocolate eyes. Then she'd ask, "I coming, Mommy?"

If I said no, with the skill and speed of an auctioneer, she'd sputter a string of emphatic, staccato "I coming's." Her words were few but her message clear: Where I went, she wanted to go.

One day, we went ice skating. Carolyn stepped onto the ice, shuffled forward, faltered and fell. Tears formed in her eyes, and she begged to be picked up. But I didn't want her to give up. I skated backward a few feet, extended my arms, and said, "Come to Mommy."

She looked in my eyes and grinned. "I coming, Mommy," she declared. Then she got up and started shuffling after me around the rink.

That's the beauty of baby talk: It lacks sophistication but conveys the essence. Baby talk is also an essential developmental step in your child's process of becoming a proficient communicator. There is a time for baby talk. If you're the parent of a toddler, the time is now.

Speaking Baby Talk Like the Experts
Just as your child couldn't learn to ride a bike if you didn't provide one, he or she won't become a skillful communicator without an ample supply of language. As a bike must fit the child, so language must be tailored to the child's age and understanding. Here are some guidelines to help you create that perfect fit:

  1. Stoop to your child's level or raise her to yours. Establish eye contact.
  2. Talk about things that interest him. It's appropriate to raise your pitch and repeat simple statements like "See the horse!" Your baby talk captures your child's attention and enables him or her to focus on your message despite background noise. In response, your child approximates, as closely as he or she can, your words.
  3. Link your conversation to the present. Talk about what you are doing as you go through your daily routine. Make the most of opportunities. Toddlers must count the bunnies when they see them, not half an hour later.
  4. Be patient with your child's approximations. If he comes out with "twabewy," say something like, "Yes, that's a strawberry. We eat strawberries. They are delicious." Your relaxed attitude will promote language learning.
  5. Be patient with interruptions. A Harvard University study found that the information and enthusiasm exchanged even during brief intervals boost linguistic development.

--Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Mother and former school teacher
State College, PA

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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