Parents may feel self-conscious, but talking to a baby in a silly voice really could help them learn.
A study of 71 families looked at ‘parentese’ – the slow, high-pitched, happy-sounding voice in which many parents talk to their babies.
It found children spoken to this way the most knew more proper words like ‘banana’ and 'dog' at 18 months old.
Experts used to think this way of speaking to made them worse at learning language.
But recent evidence shows speaking to a child slowly and cheerfully grabs their attention, which may make them engage more with their parents and try to imitate their speech.
'Parentese' is not the same as baby talk, which tends to be ungrammatical and include made-up nonsense words
The key to really making it work seems to be paying attention to a child, and responding to what they are looking at or trying to say.
Researchers recruited babies aged six months and their parents, randomly allocating 47 of them to receive coaching on the importance of parentese.
Those who learned about parentese, and used it more often said their children knew just over 99 words on average at 18 months old.
Parentese is a type of speech where an adult talks to a child in an exaggerated or repetitive way.
Speaking parentese to a baby is supposed to make them look at you and engage with with gurgles and giggles.
These early parent-infant talks help babies learn how to communicate with others and learn words.
Parents speaking with their child in parentese are encouraged to describe what the baby is doing or even ask them questions.
Even though the baby doesn't need to understand what the parent is saying, he or she can still engage in the conversation even if it is in the form of incoherent noises.
When parents not given coaching – the ones who used less parentese – were asked to indicate how many words their 18-month-old knew from a list of around 600, they said the child knew only 64 on average.
Professor Patricia Kuhl, senior author of the study from the University of Washington in Seattle, said: ‘We believe parentese makes language learning easier because of its simpler