What’s Child-Directed Speech and Is It Effective?

(P.S. This post may contain affiliate links.)

Have you noticed that mamas, grandmas, and even little siblings will talk differently to a toddler than an adult? We have a natural tendency to talk differently to babies and toddlers, it’s something instinctive that we do. The style of talking we use with little ones is called “Child-Directed” also known as “Motherese” or “Baby Talk.”

(Personally, I have mixed feelings with the term “Baby Talk” because it means different things to different people. Some people use it to mean talking slowly and expressively to infants while others interpret it to be using made-up words and sickly-sweet talk with preschoolers and kindergartners. Because so many people are familiar with “Baby Talk,” I’ll use it isn’t of saying “motherese”… but keep in mind that is means talking slowly and expressively to infants and toddlers. )

What’s Child-Directed Speech?

“Child Directed-Speech” (CDS) is the style of talking we use with infants and toddlers where we talk slower, exaggerate vowels, and speak in shorter sentences. CDS is used to help little ones learn language and while it helpful for language development, it’s not helpful forever. There are specific times and situations when using CDS is beneficial and times when it is not.

And don’t worry, we’re using real research here 🙂

The research we’re using is from the article “The Influence of Child-Directed Speech on Word Learning and Comprehension” that was  in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research in April 2017.

Why am I including this reference?

1) I prefer to avoid anything that looks like plagiarism.

2) I want you to be equipped with evidence-based knowledge and not trying to develop your child’s language with information from some random person on the internet.

So the conclusions from the research are:

1) Child-Directed Speech is best when used when learning new words or language concepts.

2) It doesn’t help a child if it’s used with something they already know or have mastered, otherwise it isn’t helpful and it can be condescending.

3) It didn’t make a difference when it was used with 5 and 6-year-old but was helpful for 3 and 4-year olds.

So is Child-Directed Speech effective? Yep! …If you use it with your little ones when they’re learning something new…. otherwise, talk to you child like you would talk to another adult. 🙂

Want to know how to use Child-Directed Speech? Check out Baby Talk is for Babies


Foursha-Stevenson, C., Schembri, T., Nicoladis, E., & Eriksen, C. (2017). The influence of child-directed speech on word learning and comprehension. Journal Of Psycholinguistic Research46(2), 329-343. doi:10.1007/s10936-016-9441-3

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