People are always surprised when they hear how I speak to my daughter, who’s not even two yet.
“How would you like to spend your day today?”
“Would you like Mummy to cook the chicken from Marqt or buy you the chicken the staff in Marqt made earlier today?”
In return she astonishes me. Every evening, without fail, she says “Mummy, tired, bed.” There’s no negativity surrounding bedtime—the threat of bed for being naughty is nonexistent in our house. If anything, it’s me trying to persuade my toddler to stay up late, Ab Fab Saffy and Edina style.
There’s a method behind what many parents might perceive as madness. Infants love the singsong rhythm of baby talk—or motherese, as it’s known in evolutionary anthropology—but for my money, as soon as they become toddlers, baby talk should gracefully step aside. For real talk.
Hear me out. I’ve put together 5 actual benefits of talking to your toddler like a grownup—and they might just make you look at those conversations in a whole new light.
1. Their vocabulary will expand
Child development experts recommend talking to your infant as you go about your day, teaching them about their surroundings in an organic way. That’s hard to do if you only use baby talk. Once your child is a toddler, they soak up language and learn new words every day—so nurture that ability by giving them a handy vocabulary!
2. Their speech might develop faster
Talking to your children in a normal voice and about everyday things can accelerate their development. Of course, kids mature at their own pace, so don’t expect your two-year-old to start rattling off complete sentences—although they might! Having children who speak also makes your life easier because communication becomes so much more efficient.
3. You’ll stay calmer if you have to discipline them
For me, probably the biggest benefit of talking to my daughter like an adult is that I interact with her better during conflict. I’ve found she’s able to reason when I speak to her in this way. When she doesn’t want her shoes on, we can discuss which ones she wants to wear instead and why. Of course, having this level of language doesn’t magically solve every problem, but it does mean we’re both much more likely to stay calm and talk it out.
4. They’ll learn how to express their needs
I firmly believe that speaking to your children in your regular voice encourages them to become more expressive. Of course toddlers will be toddlers, so there have been plenty of tantrums in my house—but by empowering your child with language from as young an age as you can manage, you help them ask for what they need sooner, like food, drink, and hugs.
5. No embarrassing home videos of your baby talk!
This one’s mostly in jest—although there’s definitely something to be said for not having to hear your own baby voice on video! It might be a rite of passage for parents to have to hear their cooing echoing from family members’ phones for years to come—but to be honest I don’t know any adult who doesn’t cringe when they have to sit through this!
Give it a try
Still not convinced? Fair enough—talking to your toddler like an adult is a pretty radical idea if you’ve never heard of it before. But okay, do this for me: try it for just one week—heck, for one day. Just see how your toddler responds differently. They’ll probably be confused—but only momentarily. Toddlers are incredibly adaptable—that’s their entire thing at that age. And once you’ve got into the rhythm of it, I truly contend you’ll never look back.