Preschoolers Pretending to be a Baby

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Articulate 3-year-old has started talking like a baby

March 2005

Help! My extremely articulate 3-year old has started talking baby talk. (He skipped baby talk as toddler and started talking very early.) I know that he is trying to imitate his 18- month old brother (who is not really talking yet). But I don't know how to get the 3 year old to talk in his regular voice. The baby talk is driving me nuts! Oddly, the baby talk comes out when he's happy and playing, usually with adults giving him plenty of attention. Any suggestions, oh wise parents? (I didn't see anything in the archives about this.) weary mamma

Many older sibs go through a baby talk phase, and yes, it drives adults crazy, but it will pass. Try to ignore it, as harping on it will likely draw it out longer. It's totally normal. --a very experienced nanny

Your son is advanced, because mine did this when he was four. and like yours, when he wasn't using babytalk, he was quite articulate and pronounced words very well. My wonderful sitter told him repeatedly, and nicely ''Use your big boy voice, please'' and he has gotten a lot better. Fran

A great way to keep this baby talk up is to worry about it and make him think it/he is bad. Maybe sometimes, being 3yo is a lot of pressure on him and he wants to pretend to be younger. Pretend play is okay. And like you said, it's not constant.

**Denying him the ability to express doesn't feel right to me.** He is not being abusive when doing it, so there is no real reason to make him stop, other than it annoys you. But definitely let him know that baby pretend is only at certain times (not around guests, if it's that important to you).

Possibly, he feels he will be thought of as cute (like the younger sibling), and therefore emulates his brother. Perhaps he needs more one-on-one attention (and praise!) from mom and dad. He needs to know that all his 3yo stuff is just as cute as the younger one who stole his thunder. Be especially keen on praising all the big boy stuff that he does.

I wouldn't make a big deal about it. Just set some structure. If it embarrasses you around friends, you could say ''Dear, we're not doing baby play right now. It's time to be a big boy, and we'll do baby pretend later on''. And then truly give him the opportunity to play baby when it's just you with him. After playing baby for awhile (try to get into it- pretend play is important for kids), say ''That was fun. I don't want to play baby anymore. Let's play big boy now''. He will be able to revert as needed in this case, get it out of his system, and see also that he is valued.

When you go back to big boy play, remind him that we need to use our words the right way too, so that little bro learns to speak just as well as his big brother. He'll grow out of it.

My mom went through a similar experience with me and my two years younger brother. I can tell you personally that it stemmed from mild jealousy of the attention paid my little brother when he ''talked'' vs. when I did. I wasn't able to rationalize that I had experienced the same level of excited attention from my parents over my every goo and coo, and I began to emulate him to attract attention. It drove my mom nuts too!

Her solution, which I do not recommend is that she would scold me and ask me to talk with my ''big girl'' voice, she also would ignore baby talk from me. It made me feel invalidated and hurt, and led to me being stubborn and resentful--refusing to talk in anything but the baby voice.

He could just be a little jealous and insecure. My suggestion is that you make sure you are paying lots of attention to both your little ones and that your older child gets positive reinforcement for using ''big boy'' language. If you make a big deal about it when he uses ''baby talk'', he may enjoy even the negative attention paid him and ham it up (as I did). Keep in mind it's likely just a passing phase and perhaps he hasn't really regressed, so much as begun to exercise his abundant creativity by play acting as his younger sibling for attention. I know I found a personal bit of fascination with my little brothers efforts and enjoyed emulating him out of psuedo- scientific interest as much as for the attention. If the older boy is a gifted child (as I was) it may just be an intellectual exploration game for him. He still knows how to ''talk big'' I'd just give him a little extra love and attention and he'll likely return to where he was before. Good luck! :) --Martha (reasonably articulate now...)

My 3 y.o. daughter started doing this even before I got pregnant with her sister, but then she really started doing it a lot when the baby came. She had also spoken very well at a young age, so the baby talk was a clear regression. She was convinced that it was ''cute'' and she even got upset when I told her that I didn't think it was cute. (Although at the same time she didn't want to be called ''cute''.) So I just reassured her as much as possible that she is beautiful and also reinforced all the great things she can do that the baby couldn't. Also I reassured her often that ''there is no one I love more than you'' (i.e. I don't love you more than your sister, but I don't love her more either.) At first it really annoyed me and I made a big thing about it, but eventually I learned to ignore it and she stopped doing it. --learning to be a little more ''zen'' about things

2.5 y.o. still speaks baby talk - should I worry?

Nov 2003

Our first child is 2.5 years old. And we recently went to visit relatives with a child the same age. I was suprised to hear her speak clearly and understand? Our child still speaks 'baby talk' we understand her. i wonder what age should i start to worry. She doesn't get much interaction with others, just her parents. I am looking into pre school for the interaction with other kids but i've been unemployed for 9 months so the affordable preschool is booked. I was #6 on the waiting list. So should i be worried or am I just a nervous father? p.s. we just started potty training Rick

Do you speak ''baby talk'' to her, or do you talk normally to her? I have a friend who talks babytalk to her child, and in turn, the child (who is very intelligent) talks babytalk too. anonymous

It's hard to tell without hearing her. Most 2.5 year olds should be stringing together sentences of at least 2-3 words and should be able to be understood by people outside the family 50% or more of the time. Call your pediatrician or the Regional Center if you are still worried. If there is a language issue, the sooner therapy for it starts the better the outcome. Preschool isn't necessarily the answer. Good luck! pedimama

Well, it might not be what you want to hear...but it surprises me to learn your child doesn't speak at least clearly if not in sentances already. My daughter is 26 mos. old and has been speaking clearly for what seems like a year. Most of her friends that are the same age, speak clearly as well. Some might not talk as much as she does, but when they do, it's not baby talk. She speaks in clear sentences and generally repeats everything that we say. I don't think it's unheard of for a child to go without saying anything for a long time and then all of a sudden burst out talking in sentences, but if she is ''babbling'' which is what I presume babytalk to mean, you might want to have her hearing checked. Good luck. anon

Hi, My son will be 3 in December and speaks very clearly, and has for some time. However, he has a friend, 1 month younger than he, who has only recently become articulate enough for adults to capture bits and pieces of her conversation (even her Dad doesn't understand her!) She has been tested for a number of developmental issues, and was fine on everything except one completely unrelated physical milestone. Obviously, if you're worried I would ask the pediatrician, but for me, I wouldn't worry. If it goes another year, then I would definitely look at things like hearing, but until then just enjoy this fabulous age. Toddler Mom


3 yr old playing ''baby''

Nov 2002

Almost every day, our 3 year old daughter wakes up and says ''the little baby is awake. Come get the baby!'' One of her favorite games, which is repeated many times most every day, is ''I'm a little baby - pick the baby up - the baby can't walk - the baby doesn't know how to talk,'' etc., etc. Is this obsession (for lack of a better word) with baby-ness common? Sometimes it's a tad tiresome - I want to relate to her as a 3 year old, not as a baby, but she can get very upset if I say ''You're a big girl - can you please walk to the kitchen?'' But I don't want to make a big deal out of it either, especially if it's, as they say, ''developmentally appropriate.'' michael

My 2.5 year old girl has been doing exactly the same thing for the last three weeks. I thought that maybe it is a way to get attention, since she sees that little babies get a lot of attention. Or maybe it is just that she is learning how to ''pretend''. She also likes to pretend that she is a little puppy or a little doggie or a little cow and insists that we pick up the little dog, pet the little dog etc. So far, I have just assumed it is a phase that she will outgrow soon enough Gen

if it is any consolation, my 2.5 year old likes to play ''baby.'' all if a sudden she will say ''lia baby'' (in a baby voice) which means that suddenly, she must be carried or put down for a pretend nap or baby-talked to. it is funny in retrospect, but she also gets upset if i tell her that she isn't a baby. anyways, i just go along with it for a little while and then she ends up playing something else. i think it is just a phase. suzie

My 3 yr old son is also playing this '' game. '' I thought it was because he sees how much I enjoy my one year old nephew. Then I read this: ''Around 33 months of age, many children go through a stage of reliving their babyhood, of thinking about themselves in terms of their own past. The child may pretend that he is a baby, even going back to the use of baby talk, though some are loath to give up their glorious acquistion of speech. So, a child may say, ''I'm a little baby. I can't walk, I have no teeth, I drink froom a bottle. But I can talk. However, by Three, most have caught up with themselves chronologically and are now in a state of equilibrium and of no longer looking back.'' (from Your Three Year Old, Friend or Enemy by Ames and Ilg.) So I try to go with the flow and give him a little snuggle and then go about our business. jen