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Baby Talk—When ‘Rabbit’ pronounced ‘Wabbit’ is not cute anymore.

Updated on December 27, 2010
Enjoy you child's baby talk, but don't reinforce it by mimicking it.
Enjoy you child's baby talk, but don't reinforce it by mimicking it.

When "Baby Talk" Turns Into A Child Speech Delay

When little children mispronounce sounds we considered it ‘cute baby talk’. But, do we do the child a disservice when we mimic his "cute baby talk"?


Children learn to speak by listening. Just because they cannot produce the sound correctly themselves, they will develop the ability to pronounce the sounds they hear as they practice. And practice doesn't make perfect... Practice makes Permanent.

If the audio model is incorrect the articulation will be incorrect. And when articulation is incorrect, spelling is incorrect and reading becomes harder.

Although this is cute while the child is young, mimicking the child’s articulation is harmful to the development of correct speech and can be a source of embarrassment to the child by the time they enter school.

Neighborhood Link National Network Bullying Prevention Program Free Community Website
Neighborhood Link National Network Bullying Prevention Program Free Community Website

When A Child Speech Delay Follows Them To School

No time of life is more insecure than when a child enters school for the first time. Children enter school extremely tender and easily offended.

Unfortunately, problems with speech can hold our children back; making them shy and unaccepted by their peers. When we enforce improper speech by modeling their 'cute baby talk', we make it harder on our child in school. Now (s)he must retrain the brain and the vocal cords to correct the speech delay we have re-enforced.

Another problem is Bullying.

Bullying on the playground is a growing concern. And a child with speech delay can turn into the target.

"Bullies often target children who are considered by their peers as “different”. This could be a real or perceived difference around their appearance, the way they learn or communicate or the manner in which they behave (Pacer Center, 2003)."

Speech delays fall into this category.

Bullying is a serious problem that occurs throughout our schools every day. Without intervention bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal problems (Cohn and Cantor, 2002).

Preventing Child Speech Delays

  • Start early and speak clearly.
  • Children learn the language of their parents. If you make an effort to annunciate properly yourself, your baby will hear that.
  • Take time to talk to your baby. Sound recognition starts early. Focus on, and talk to your child, even when a baby. Brain imagery research shows a baby's brain circuitry literally explodes with verbal stimulus.
  • Repeat simple songs, poems, and phrases that emphasize phonic sounds. Children love repetition. It is entertaining to them. But, it really is much much more.
  • Keep reading, singing, playing times short. 3-4 minutes , several times a day for infants. Increase the time and decrease the frequency the older the child grows.
  • IMPORTANT: Don't become upset if your toddler does not pronounce words correctly. They learn from hearing the correct sound. Modeling the sound comes with practice. It is bad habits that you need to worry about. Be the proper example of proper speech, and your child will most likely develop into the same.

One book I highly suggest as a resource is Chatter Batter. It was written by me, so of course I like it. It has four children's stories you can use to help curb the four most commonly delayed sounds, 'l', 'r', 's', and 'th'. But what I like most is the parental help at the back. There is pertinent new information on brain development and expert advice for reading to young children and a recommended method for helping the slow reader catch up.  You can find it at Amazon.

Chatter Batter - Four Stories For Speech Development

When a Child Speech Delay Becomes Apparent

Look for help early.  Most elementary schools have qualified speech therapists available because they know correcting the problem is easy when the child is young.  A few weeks or maybe months of proper instruction is often all it takes to correct a child speech delay.  Don't put it off.  And put forth an effort to support the speech therapy your child is getting.

A child's speech delay is often caused from hearing problems.  Take them to an audiologist as early as you suspect a problem.  But, do be aware that toddlers will talk with 'cute baby talk'.

When choosing books to read to your child, look for books with small words;  Not small in the sense that they are written in a small font, but small in the sense of the number of syllables in the words.

IMPORTANT:  Do not model back to your child his 'cute baby talk'.  Be sure to articulate clearly when speaking and speak to your child often.


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    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

      The stories are written for younger children to listen to, but they are good for older children to read. They are resource material for diction practice. Listening is an important part of correcting speech problems. By articulating correctly and drawing conscious attention to the sound is often very helpful. Beware of making it frustrating,however. Remember diction problems change slowly and consciously .

      BTW Thanks for the vote.

    • calico Stark profile image

      calico Stark 6 years ago from Earth for the time being

      My child is 11 yrs old and the speech therapists at the schools did not know why my child talked the way she did. Nor were they able to help her. I am now homeschooling my daughter suspecting an audio processing problem. This was a great hub! Vote up from me! Can you tell me if your book is just for younger children, is it age appropriate for an eleven yr old?

    • Sa`ge profile image

      Sa`ge 7 years ago from Barefoot Island

      this is a great hub, one that all parents as well as anyone who is around children a lot should read. This happens much to often in most societies. really great hub!


    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah


      Yes, this hub is for the laziness type of child speech delay. I have lots of friends that are middle school school teachers, and they say it is almost appalling the number of kids that make it to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades with poor diction...thing that could be easily corrected, and because they didn't really have 'speech problems', they didn't really need speech therapy. The problem is, these kids spell and read the way they talk, so when they see things written they can't sound them out because they pronounce words wrong (such as saying 'da' instead of 'the', 'wong' instead of 'wrong').

      Thanks for your comment. If you have resources you would like to pass on to parents with real speech impediments, please do so here.


    • profile image

      JeanMeriam 7 years ago

      Good hub. My little girl has speech delays. Totally different reason from those you have mentioned here, though. Good advice in your hub.

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

      Thanks Pamela,

      Being a former preschool teacher, I really love kids and want to see them succeed. It is sad to me to see little children get their self-confidence crushed before they really have a chance to bloom. Talking correctly gives them more confidence interacting with their peers. Kids HATE to be laughed at.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Great advice. It is tempting to talk baby talk with infants but obviously not in their best interest. Good hub.