A child is a person. 99% of the kids’ I perform to have English as their first language. Yes, they are smaller than adults, and maybe wear dungarees to play in the sand, but essentially they are people. As such they should be spoken to as people.
But why do some people speak to children in higher tones?
The reason comes from scientific research which shows that babies enjoy hearing higher pitched sounds and exaggerated speech patterns over standardised adult tones. These infants not only enjoy this higher pitched tones but also the funny facial expressions that accompany them.
Is this a myth or has it been scientifically tested?
This has been tested…. Several years ago, scientists sat a group of babies down and played CDs of adult-to-adult speech or adult-to-infant speech at separate times. When the babies turned their heads one way, the scientists played an adult conversation. When the infants turned their heads the other way, the babies heard baby cooing and the high-pitched child talk. The researchers found that the babies consistently chose to turn their heads to hear the speech directed toward infants. This was enhanced even further as babies turned their head in the direction of the sound even when it was in a foreign language.
Thus, babies, prefer hearing the higher-pitched tones and exaggerated speech patterns of over adult speak (as we know it) even when they don’t know what the words mean. Babies not only enjoy the sounds we make when we do it – they also enjoy watching our over-exaggerated face movements as we talk to them too.
This baby speak is sometimes as much as an octave higher than our standard tone.
But why do some people do it?
Maybe it’s because it shuns some people of their authoritative tones, or merely mimics the higher pitched tones of the children and their cries.
Not only does this baby-speak include higher tones, but it also features well-rounded, elongated and drawn-out consonants and vowels. When talking with babies, we tend to pronounce words very precisely and clearly and offers a sharp contrast to the hurried way we speak to other adults. We do this in the hope of infants finding it easier to relate to us and learn the English language more quickly.
However, 99% of the time as kids’ magician’s we play the role of children’s entertainers and not baby entertainers. Thus, these higher pitched tones are relevant only to a really young audience. Babies.
There are other parts of our speech which rears its head when speaking to children.
“And what’s what your name?”
“And who’s a cute little boy then?”
Putting ‘and’ in front of our questions is no different to using our higher pitched tones. They should be reserved for babies.
I am all for speaking in slower, clearer, more animated ways with children and in fact whole-heartedly encourage it, especially if they are shy, but talking to children as though they are babies, is not really appropriate. A normal tone, is an adult tone.
A more varied tone? Yes.
A more animated tone? Yes.
A more animated face (Ala the Godfather of Children’s entertainment – Terry Herbert )? Yes.
A more basic language? Yes.
Baby language? No.
When I perform to kids’ I keep it fun, keep it light, keep them laughing, and do all this using adult language, animated faces, (the occasional silly noise or two), basic language with uncomplicated words and it work!. I set the tone, the kids’ have a fantastic time, are invariably really well behaved (bar one little tinker) and the mother’s congratulate me on a job well done! I have never once asked why I don’t speak more babyish to a child…….
Fail safe way to performing a great kids’ show – Number 2 – speak to the kids’ in the same tone as an adult, not as a baby. To see the way I talk to kids, check out my Derby children’s entertainer show-reel. I always encourage input from mother’s on my posts and will happily include some thoughts and ideas if you want to email. firstname.lastname@example.org