A few months ago, I was out wearing my then 15-month-old son when a woman came up to us. “Oh, my goodness! Look how cute!” Before I could thank her for the compliment, she bent down closer to my son's face and started shouting enthusiastic gibberish at him. He gave her a puzzled look, then turned the other way. “So cute, but not very friendly, I guess?” It took all my self-control not to laugh — or to respond to her with the same gibberish she'd just directed at him. I think adults should talk to kids like normal people and, by the looks of it, my toddler agrees.
Now, before anyone assumes I'm advocating talking to our kids like we're doing our taxes together or something like that, I should clarify. I'm not at all opposed to what researchers call “infant-directed speech,” the instinctive way most people tend to do things like over-enunciate their words and vary their pitch at an increased rate when talking to babies. That actually makes our speech more interesting for them to listen to, and helps them learn language by making our speech a bit clearer, and making the emotional content of our language more apparent.
But the random gibberish? Using infant-directed speech with older children? Or just opting out of talking to children more generally? Yeah, not as helpful. If we want kids to learn language to the best of their ability, we have to use it with them as often as possible, and model what normal, respectful conversation looks like. The following are just a few reasons why it’s important to talk to your kid (or any kid) like you’d talk to an adult or any other person, though I’m sure folks could think of plenty more.