Listening and responding to your baby’s babbling can make them smarter

Responding to your babies' babbling accelerates their learning

Your baby’s babbling may be nonsensical now, but listening and responding to their goo-goos and ga-gas can make a world of a difference when it comes to their development.

According to a study by the University of Iowa and Indiana University, parents who act like they understand their baby’s babbling strengthens their communication skills.

“It’s how a mother responds that matters"

baby talk Photo: Dreamstime

By listening and responding to your baby’s babbling, you let your child know that they are able to communicate, spurring them on to learn language more quickly.

“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” study author Julie Gros-Louis said in an official statement. “It’s how a mother responds that matters.”

The researchers studied a group of mothers and babies in play sessions over six months, beginning when the babies were eight months old, The Atlantic reports. The mothers responded to their babies’ babbling in two ways:

  • the redirective response, where the mothers would distract the baby with something else, like a toy or something in the room
  • the sensitive response, where the mothers would verbally reply or imitate their babies’ sounds

"They learned they are communicative"

baby talk Photo: Shutterstock

One month after their last session, the infants whose mothers showed “sensitive” responses displayed more sophisticated babbling that were often directed at their mothers—showing that they were trying to “speak” to them instead of just making noise for the sake of it. These babies also produced more words and gestures at age 15 months.

“The infants were using vocalizations in a communicative way, in a sense, because they learned they are communicative,” Gros-Louis explained.