What does the best research say about babbling, and whether it should be encouraged, ignored, or discouraged?

Would early deafness make a difference to that advice?

I've been told that babbling is fine; and to repeat the sounds back sometimes is good. Babbling lets children explore and develop their tongue and mouth. And repeating the babbling back to them lets them know that they can make a noise that people will respond to, which encourages them to talk. If they try to say a word you model the correct word, and reply to the question / demand.

Does that match good recent research?

3 Answers 3


You should always encourage all attempts at vocalization that your child makes. Expressive verbal language delays may be due to hearing problems, developmental issues involving the mouth, tongue, palate, or throat, or neurological deficits. While I would never encourage a parent to worry excessively over a "missed" milestone (as they are in reality more flexible than many parents appreciate), if the child in question is being seen for the glue ear problem, you should not refuse any offers of early intervention services, and should consider requesting an evaluation by a pediatric speech therapist if one has not yet been done.

I recommend the following resources to get you started:
Childhood Speech, Language, and Listening Problems, by Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi
The Late Talker: What to Do If Your Child Isn't Talking Yet, by Dr. Marilyn C. Agin, et al.
"Baby Babble", "Baby Babble 2", and "Baby Babble 3" DVDs

The Baby Babble DVDs were created by two speech therapists specializing in very early speech delays. They contain short movies which are amazingly effective in getting young children vocalizing, and each contains helpful tips on remedial strategies as well. For instance, sometimes children are reluctant to make B, P and M noises, which hampers formation of syllables necessary for the first spoken words. Remedial strategies for that problem encourage making noises such as "pop" in response to exciting stimuli (this can be done with toys, not just by using the DVDs). Remedial strategies for vowel sound avoidance can include anything that encourages the child to purse the lips and blow, such as blowing bubbles through a straw.

Advice is consistent throughout all the materials I've seen and read to do whatever possible to encourage all vocalizations-- never correct a child, which risks making him or her feel bad and clam up, though of course having a conversation where one models words in different forms is to be encouraged. Researchers also do tend to encourage babbling back at a child who's not ready to form words yet. In general, do anything to make vocalization fun and stress-free, and increase mobilization of the tongue, mouth and throat. On the DVDs recommended above, you will see the therapists act extremely overjoyed at every sound the children struggle to make. You will also notice them using exaggerated facial expressions when making sounds in front of the children, as one area that may be lacking is understanding / modeling of the correct movements of the mouth to make a certain sound.

Early hearing problems, even ones falling short of deafness, should be addressed as quickly as possible. Not only do they impact early language development, but even problems resolved with tubes and the like, which disappear as a child gets older, have been linked to attention and language processing disorders.


That depends very much of the extent of the "glue air". The occasional middle ear infection needs to be treated properly, but shouldn't have any impact on speech and language development. If it's bad enough that it actually affects hearing over longer period of times, I would really focus on getting this fixed first. (CAVEAT: see your doctor) The key is to keep the Eustachian tube open so that the middle ear cavity can vent, drain and equalize properly. We found that antibiotics are not very effective: it only provided short term release of symptoms (infection) but no proper venting so the infection will reoccur. In our case hot onion compresses worked quite well, although it stinks up the house. In the most extreme cases you may have to artificially vent by either opening up the tube or putting a grommet in the ear drum. However, this ought to be fixable with no permanent degradation of hearing.

If there is significant hearing loss (which I really hope, isn't), you need to work with a professional to create a speech learning plan that's tailored to the specifics of the hearing loss. If not, just happily babble along.


Glue ear tends to cut out reception of high frequency speech sounds, such as 's' 't' 'p' 'h' 'sh' 'ch' and more with children only able to hear low frequency speech sounds. As we tend not to be able to produce sounds we don't hear then the speech of children with glue ear, consisting of low frequency speech sounds, tends to sound a little unusual. However if your child is babbling, this is a very positive sign. There are two stages of babbling, - the first, known as reduplicated babbling is where the same sounds are repeated over and over, 'babababa.' The second stage, known as variegated babbling, is where various sounds are mixed together, 'badamada.' Most children babble and it is a stage of language development which is entirely normal and healthy. It leads on to the next stage which is commonly known and 'jargon' or 'scribble talk' where there are a range of sounds produced, which seem to have 'half words' embedded within them. Of course some children completely bypass the babbling stage. You should just let your child pass through this stage, it is normal and healthy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .