'Parents should talk and sing to their babies as much as possible' - why experts think this is key for language development and it's never too early to start

Time to warm up those voices...

Mother singing to her baby
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New research has suggested that reading nursery rhymes and singing to babies may help them to learn language easier as they grow up. 

Life with a newborn is filled with challenges, but there's also a lot of fun involved. From singing bedtime lullabies, to learning how to play with a newborn, and picking the best sensory toys , it can be so rewarding to see them devlop their  skills and make sense of the world around them.

While babies understand little of what parents say to them, new research has found that by reading and singing to their little ones, parents can help their children to better understand the 'rhythmic speech' that shows them how to talk. And it seems that it's never too early to begin teaching a baby how to speak. 

Research conducted by experts from the University of Cambridge and Trinity College Dublin has shown that the small, short words and sounds babies are taught are often learned too late and slowly to have any impact on their ability to talk. Instead, they now believe that babies use the 'rhythmic pattern' of their parents' speech to learn full words as early as their first year alive

Cambridge neuroscientist, Professor Usha Goswami, revealed, "Our research shows that the individual sounds of speech are not processed reliably until around seven months, even though most infants can recognise familiar words like 'bottle' by this point. From then individual speech sounds are still added in very slowly - too slowly to form the basis of language."

Goswami explained that this means it is more likely that rhythmic information, so the emphasis on the different syllables of words and the rise and fall of tone as we speak, is the key to babies learning language. 

Dad with children

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Explaining the science, Goswami said, "Infants can use rhythmic information like a scaffold or skeleton to add phonetic information onto. For example, they might learn that the rhythm pattern of English words is typically strong-weak, as in 'daddy' or 'mummy', with the stress on the first syllable. 

"They can use this rhythm pattern to guess where one-word ends and another begins when listening to natural speech." 

Therefore, reading full, proper words and singing in rhythmic patterns will better teach children how to speak when compared with giving toddlers short, syllabic words to try out.

"Parents should talk and sing to their babies as much as possible or use infant directed speech like nursery rhymes because it will make a difference to language outcome," Goswami concluded.

Why not try singing one of the most popular bedtime lullabies to a newborn, or, if you're conscious about your singing voice, turn to Youtube star Ms Rachel whose educational videos and songs make perfect listening for any child. Learn more about the grisly origins of nursery rhymes.

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for Goodto.com. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.