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Forget dumbed-down baby talk

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Forget the “baby talk.’” The best way for parents to give their babies a head start in comprehending the world around them is to talk in normal conversational tones, which helps infants’ as well as toddlers’ brains “build crucial language and vocabulary skills,” according to Erika Hoff, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University.

“The advice I give mothers is to have conversations with their babies and not ‘talk down’ to them. Children can hear lots of talk that goes over their heads in terms of the meaning, and they still benefit from it,” she told attendees at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science yesterday. She also stressed the need for parents to also sing and read to their babies even before they are capable of responding.

“The idea is to connect words and meanings so the brain becomes primed to learn through context, thus building intelligence through language,” added Anne Fernald, a psychology professor from Stamford University.