Want to Help Your Baby Learn to Talk? Respond to Babbling

Father responds to babyFor many parents, a child’s first word is a much-anticipated milestone. As children learn to talk, parents may feel closer to their babies and better equipped to communicate with them. According to a new study, parents who want to help their children learn to talk should listen and respond to their baby’s babbling.

Learning to Talk Through Babbling

The study, sponsored by the University of Iowa and Indiana University, looked at interactions between 12 mothers and their babies. Research began when the babies were 8-months old and continued twice a month for 30 minutes at a time for 6 months. Researchers kept notes on how and when the mothers responded to their babies. Mothers who responded to babbling had babies who babbled more frequently. Researchers noted that it was particularly important for parents to respond when the babbling seemed directed toward the parent. Parents who did this had children who increasingly directed more babbling toward the parent.

Babbling is an important precursor to speech, so babies who babble more frequently are closer to talking and may begin saying their first words. Researchers point out that responding to babies’ babbling teaches children how to learn. When parents respond, babies learn that they can communicate, and that babbling is a form of communication.

Other Ways to Help Your Baby Talk

Responding to your baby’s babbles can help him or her learn to speak, but there are many other steps that previous research has shown to be effective. If you want to help your child learn to talk, try some of the following:

  • Talk to your baby as much as you can. Try narrating your daily activities, pointing out interesting sights and sounds, and teaching your child the words for favorite objects.
  • Read to your baby.
  • When your baby makes eye contact or otherwise tries to get your attention, talk to him or her.
  • Treat your baby’s attempts at communication as if he or she is speaking. For example, if a child says “da” while the dog is around, say, “That’s right! Dog!” In so doing, you help shape your child’s babbling into real words.
  • Sing to your baby.
  • Ask your baby questions, even if he or she can’t answer them yet.
  • Include your baby in interactions with other people, and encourage family members to talk to and maintain eye contact with your baby.


  1. Parents, listen next time your baby babbles. (2014, September 11). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827122632.htm
  2. Tips on learning to talk. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/helping-learn-to-talk.html

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  • Catherine


    September 15th, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    I knew it was important to babble back to those babies! I have had people even those who are close to me tell me that I am crazy for responding back to my little one but I think that those responses are also a part of communication and lets her know that what she is saying is important and that it is encouragement for her to just keep on talking. It might sound silly to some people but i don’t care, I think that she and I both get something pretty important out of that kind of interaction that we so luckily get to have with one another.

  • cade


    September 15th, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    We have always read to our children, no matter their age, because not only does that start a love for learning and reading forma young age but it also helps them create and understand language and become more proficient with language development early on.

  • jill


    September 16th, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    My daughter and I spent a lot of time just the two of us when she was a baby and toddler because my husband worked out of town a LOT. There were days that it was just the two of us so of course I talked to her a lot and as a result I think that she was a very early talker and an early reader as well. Children are little sponges they soak up so much more than what we may think, and if you give them all of this then look at the things that they get out of it in return. It is amazing how awesome they are, and it is even more beautiful when you know that you have contributed to their gifts and to that which they then give back to you.

  • jack


    September 16th, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    You can’t just ignore the baby even though they don’t have language skills yet.
    How else are they supposed to learn how to communicate unless you start from the very beginning showing them what language and love both are?

  • Jeb


    September 17th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    Any form of verbal response and repitition with your children will be a positive thing for them. Talking, reading, singing, they will get something from all of that. There are of course going to be times when you look around and think what am I doing, but it’s all in fun and of course it is always in the best interest of the baby.

  • Emily


    September 17th, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Gosh, I read to my babies and talked to my babies and played music for them even when they were still in the womb so I sure wasn’t going to stop once they got here!
    And I never have and I thik that for us this has made a huge difference in how they communicate and love language. They both love to read and be read to, they are musically inclined, and like me, they have the gift of gab.
    Maybe this would have been genetic and come to them naturally but I also think that we encouraged it from the very beginning. It is a natural part of their lives and this is what their version of normal is. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.

  • doctor jeanne

    doctor jeanne

    September 23rd, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    What makes us human is two-way communication! The key is to be sure, to ensure and then check feedback, that the ‘message received’ is exactly the ‘message-sent’. There are ways to do this from the first instant of any noticeable action, even prior to birth. Communication has many many forms and good interactions are always defined as ‘When the ‘sender’ and the ‘receiver’ acknowledge each other AND then ‘honor’ the other’s ‘production’. Then, Both Sides of the duet are enhanced, and improved learning happens automatically. Every second learning is happening, so beware, “what are you teaching in this moment?” All infants and adults are learning every second!! Moore Interactional Analysis guides an individual in keeping the conversation going (not shutting down the other side) and improving each interaction so that the intent is reached. ~Messaging Intent is one half, and Individual’s Filtering is the other half and each half can be modeled and learned from ‘day one’ (and before!) ~Use age appropriate expanding language and ~take turns. ~Honoring and respecting’ the other person’s communication opens the path to an adjusted, literate, productive, caring and responsible adult able to function in typical daily work and social interactions. And that later begins NOW. Major Point: ~if you ask a question, then observe for the response and always honor the answer, or don’t ask that question! ~Never agree or say “yes” if you are unsure what you are saying/signing “yes” to. ~And do teach babies to indicate yes, please, more, and use wait, now, soon, later, and not only “no”. Lots to learn about babies and development and there is not an instruction tag attached; however, ~a tiny bit of effort{until it becomes natural and easy} and ~’true respect from communicators and always with the appropriate intent of increasing that positive self-esteem in every individual’ will improve the current interaction and our planet! [True! The needs for joining a gang, becoming a teen parent, blaming others, expecting handouts or ‘free passes’, and being abusive each decrease when a careprovider truly communicates-WITH and they sing together.) The brain is already ready and eager for interactions!! ~And just like when handling a porcupine, don’t rub it the wrong way [what is the infant/toddler/partner indicating back to you???], and as professionals found out the disastrous way is true for the thick skin armadillo, DO interact together-with and make contacts or… death happens!

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