Why Does My Child Say “WaWa” & “BaBa”? {And is it Normal?}

Welcome to the first post in my new long term series “Why Does My Child___? {And is it normal?}” For more information about this series and how you can help contribute, read the intro post HERE

I remember a couple years ago a friend of mine was talking about how she wondered why her son said “wa wa” for the word water when she herself only referred to water as, well, water. I didn’t go into the why then, but I’ve been noticing that my own son Ev, 23 months, has been doing a lot of this speech pattern lately and I thought it would make a great first post in my new series. So…..

What is a Phonological Process?

If you’ve been following along for a while, you may have read some of my posts on phonological processes, delays, and treatment. What is a phonological process? Here is a quote from my post on Phonological Processes and Phonological Delays:

They are the typical patterns of how a child simplifies his speech (so “normal” speech sound errors) as they learn to speak. A child is not born being able to produce all the sounds and sound patterns of his/her language. As a child is learning how to speak English, he will simplify sounds and sound patterns. For example, a young child will simplify the word “bottle” to something like “baba.” A young child may also say “goggie” for “doggie,” “sue” for “shoe,” or “nail” for “snail.” Phonological processes, then, are the normal patterns of simplification all children use as they are learning to speak. Just like articulation skills, every child will develop their phonology skills differently, but there are ages when a child should stop using different phonological processes.

So as you can see, it is normal for young children to simplify their speech as they are learning. Eventually though, children will stop simplifying their speech and will learn to speak like the adults around them.

So Why Does my Kid Say “Wawa?” Then?

Your child says “wawa” for water, “baba” for bottle because he does not yet have the skills to say “water” and “bottle” so he uses the phonological process of reduplication to simplify the word. Reduplication is when your child repeats a syllable or part of a syllable of the word he wants so say. It doesn’t always have to be the first syllable either! My son Ev, 23 months, uses this process a lot in his speech. For example, our dog’s name is Ainsley, but he calls him “zee-zee.” He is using the final syllable of the dogs name (minus the “l” because he can’t say it yet) and repeating it to say “zee-zee” for Ainsley.

Is It normal?

This process is completely normal in toddlers! So don’t sweat it! It is a normal part of speech development. However, we typically see this process go away around age three.

What words do YOUR child simplify in this way? I want to hear!


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About Katie

Katie is a licensed, credentialed and certified pediatric speech-language pathologist and mom to three (5, 3 and 9 months). Her passion about educating, inspiring and empowering parents of children with all abilities led her to start her blog Playing With Words 365 where she shares information about speech and language development, therapy ideas and tips, intervention strategies and a little about her family life too. Katie has been working in the field of speech pathology for 9 years and is certified in The Hanen Centre’s It Takes Two to Talk ® and Target Word ® programs and holds a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition to blogging and being a mommy, Katie works part time in her small private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. As a momma, a fellow blogger, and an SLP grad student, I wanted to say how I enjoy your posts and writing style. Thanks for the inspiration!
    KaMarlowete recently posted..{Did you know}My Profile

  2. We have a friend that has been coming over for a couple years. When he was learning to talk, he called my daughter (Kaia) Kai-Kai. I thought it was adorable! 😉
    Carla recently posted..How to Make a 6-Sided Snowflake!!My Profile

  3. my son, 17 months old, simplify parents name…. (in italian mom=mamma and dad=papà): both of us are for him “mam-mma”!!!!

    In effect I gues that the words “mom and dad, mamma e papà, maman in freche, come from this process, they are all words mono.syllable or with a repetition, Isn’t so?

    I’m starting to follow this series :)


    Elvira recently posted..Pinterest e la DIY addiction (e un oatmeal bread in bottiglia da regalare)My Profile

  4. My 18 month son says “ack ack” for ducks. It’s so funny to watch him
    Run & quack after the ducks.

  5. My 13-month-old daughter says “go-go” for her cousin, Indigo. Everyone else calls her Indie, but my baby picked up on the g and went with it. :)
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  6. Valerie Doyle says:

    Very interesting that most children come up with many of the same simplifications. My baby is due in two months so he wont be talking for a little while. When my two youngest sisters were learning to speak and couldnt say Valerie they both called me Vary, even though the older one had stopped doing it by the time the next one was learning.

  7. My 21-month-old says, “eff-ee-dent” for elephant. Doesn’t seem simplified to me. Nor does “oatmilk” for oatmeal, but I’m impressed by how that’s a more accurate name anyway. :)

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