Paying attention to baby babble helps language development

When it comes to a babies’ language development, it’s no secret that babies learn to talk faster if mums and dads spend time conversing with and reading to their little’uns. There’s loads of research supporting this, and if you have your own kids, you’ll know it to be true.

Baby Babble

And now there is fascinating research that says that not only is parent-baby conversation an integral part of infant speech development but the accuracy of how parents respond to their babies’ babbling is quite essential when it comes to verbal maturation. In other words:

If your baby is directing his babble at a particular object and in your response you refer to that object, your babs is more likely to pay attention to your comment because it reflects his interest in whatever thing he is babbling about.

It’s all about credibility; about connecting.

If you respond to your baby’s babbles with some random comment, it might be equally affectionate but it’s not contingent with what your baby was talking about in the first place, and so your baby will pay less attention to what you are saying. ‘Fake’ conversation is just not as captivating or stimulating as a conversation led my engaged responses.

The study in question, conducted by experts at the University of Iowa, tracked 12 babies from the age of 8 months to 15 months of age. Every couple of weeks, babies attended half hour play sessions in which they spent time hanging out with their mums. Sessions were videotaped and parent-child interactions analysed in conjunction with the infants’ language development.


The results?


The babies whose mums responded more contingently to their coos and babbles displayed more advanced communication skills 6 months later. The study also found that mums of the more advanced communicators didn’t respond to every noise, and didn’t even use an amazing array of spectacular words; but the mums did pay close attention to their babies gaze, acknowledging his interest sometimes with just a “mmm”.

What researchers thought to be most important (in terms of superior language development) was that mums respond to babies’ directed vocalisations – the talking sounds that babies made while they were paying specific attention to their mothers or to particular objects.

Fascinating, right!?

Ultimately, it’s about actual conversation – misdirected ramblings are simple not as effective as matched responses…even when we’re talking to little beings who might appear not to understand. They absorb and comprehend much more than we often give them credit for.

For more detail on this study and for further insight, read “Talking back to babbling babies isn’t silly, it’s smart” ( by Gwen Dewar Ph.D on (