The Importance of Protoconversations for Babies

The pre-verbal stage establishes a solid basis for language acquisition in babies. In addition, protoconversations are one of the most important elements in this stage.
The Importance of Protoconversations for Babies
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When babies are between 18 and 24 months old, they start developing language in the strict sense of the word. However, before this, there are different stages of pre-verbal communication which are very important as well. Protoconversations appear naturally between babies and their primary caregivers. In fact, when this happens, you might not be aware of all the information you’re transmitting to your children. That’s why today, we’ll talk about the importance of protoconversations for babies.

Every stimulus or interaction with their environment shapes children and promotes their cognitive development. Therefore, when the mother includes her child in communicative situations, even before they’re able to speak, it will have a positive effect on them. Let’s talk about this topic in more depth below.

What are protoconversations?

Before children start communicating in a complete and formal way, they have pre-verbal training. During this training, they learn basic aspects of social interaction, which they’ll be able to use in the future. So, protoconversations are communicative exchanges between babies and their primary caregivers.

However, they tend to appear when children are between 8 and 9 months old. Therefore, babies aren’t able to articulate words or understand what their parents actually mean. Nevertheless, the importance of protoconversations relies on the fact that babies are included in communicative situations. 

The Importance of Protoconversations for Babies

From an early age, mothers naturally begin to communicate with their babies. In fact, mothers recognize every gesture or sound their babies make as part of communication, so they answer to those sounds. This is a way of communicating and interacting with their child.

The sounds babies make aren’t complete words with meaning yet. Also, even though the mother uses real words, they only work as a stimulus because of their intonation and rhythm. So, the meaning of the sounds isn’t important. What’s actually important is the interaction between them.

The importance of protoconversations for babies

In protoconversations, babies must utter a sound or make a gesture with the objective of communicating. In other words, babies do this in order to catch the adults’ attention, and when the adults respond to that, they start interacting.

As a result, babies learn to start and keep conversations going, as well as waiting for their turn to respond. Every time babies make a sound it’s their turn to communicate. This is how in protoconversations, parents and babies put into practice the elements of any conversation or social interaction.

Also remember that, during their first years of life, babies learn by imitation. This is how adults’ behavior in protoconversations have a direct impact on children. In fact, children pay attention to intonation, rhythm, volume and gestures. Then, they integrate all of them when trying to communicate. At first, they’ll only imitate their parents and primary caregivers, but then, they’ll start watching other family members and friends.

The Importance of Protoconversations for Babies

In conclusion, we can say that protoconversations are rehearsals of conversations, when babies don’t know how to speak yet. Through them, children learn and practice the important elements of social interactions. Furthermore, they acquire and copy the different verbal and non-verbal skills of the adults they have “conversations” with.

How can you stimulate language during non-verbal stages?

As we’ve seen, the stage that occurs prior to complete language acquisition provides an important basis for babies. You shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that because they’re not uttering full words or phrases, they’re not communicating. Actually, parents can do many things to help their children socialize.

To do this, you should play with them and pay attention to what they do or try to say. Try to interact with them frequently. Listen to them, and respond to their gestures and sounds. They’re trying to communicate with you!

Let them take turns to communicate, and allow them to express themselves. If you talk to them, you’ll provide your babies with elements they’ll be able to integrate and imitate in the future. Also, by stimulating and including them in conversations, they’ll be motivated to communicate more and in more complex ways.



All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • González, D. N., & García Labandal, L. B. (2006). Protoconversaciones: Ritmos y turnos de habla. In XIII Jornadas de Investigación y Segundo Encuentro de Investigadores en Psicología del Mercosur. Facultad de Psicología-Universidad de Buenos Aires.
  • Carretero, S., & Español, S. (2013). Performances y Protoconversaciones Adulto-bebé Durante el Primer Semestre de Vida. In XI Encuentro de Ciencias Cognitivas de la Musica. Sociedad Argentina para las Ciencias Cognitivas de la Musica.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.