Talking to your baby is one of the keys to enhancing your child’s brain development. How nice that it is so easy to do and costs nothing! Even the youngest babies are learning language, and when you talk to them, you are teaching them communication skills. Whether you are recounting your day, telling your infant how much you love him or her, or reading aloud from a book, all of the words matter.
When you talk to your baby, you are teaching him to listen and receive information. Receptive language skills develop more quickly than expressive language skills. Babies will understand what you say before they speak themselves. By around the age of one, your child will probably say a few single words. By the age of three, many children have literally hundreds of words at their disposal, and the acquisition of language is rolling.
There are a few simple things you can do to really support your child’s language development. You can:
Respond when your baby cries. Crying is part of your baby’s communication system during the first year. When you respond to your crying baby, your baby is learning that she will be listened to, that the world is a safe place, and that her needs will be met.
Have conversations with your baby and take turns. If your baby gives you a smile, smile in return. If your baby giggles, giggle back. If your baby coos, looks at you, and waits, coo back. Your child is learning the reciprocity of communication.
Talk naturally to your baby when you are with him. You are modeling. Talking naturally to your baby includes the use of “parentese,” which is a specific speaking style. Parentese is different from “baby talk.” Baby talk consists of nonsense sounds, whereas parentese uses everyday words and sentences that are slowed down in their delivery and exaggerated with a sing-song tone. Studies show that parentese matches the auditory processing speed of a very young baby, so parentese is helpful. Baby talk isn’t.
Describe what you see your baby doing and talk to her about what you are doing. In order to understand your language, your baby is going to need repeated experiences hearing the language and associating it with an action or thing.
Sing songs, tell stories, and read books.
Talk early and talk often . . .
There is a difference . . .
Parent #1: It’s bath time.
Parent #2: It’s bath time. Time to get in the tub.
Parent #3: It’s bath time for Joey! Does Joey want to play with the duck or the ball? Oh, the water is just the right temperature for Joey! Now we can take off Joey’s shirt. Bath time is so much fun! In you go! Splash, splash, splash! Now Joey is wet. Where is the soap? Here it is. Scrub-a-dub-dub, Joey’s in the tub. Now let’s rinse off that soap. Let’s get the towel ready. Oh, that towel is soft and warm and ready for Joey. Now Joey is getting all dried off. Where are those pajamas? Here they are. And tonight Joey is wearing blue pajamas. Another hug for Joey. Let’s hang up the towel. Now let’s have story time! And on and on . . . ☺
More to consider:
What science says about talking . . .
In the mid-1990s, a University of Kansas team followed forty-two families from various socioeconomic backgrounds for more than two and a half years. The children of the families involved were seven to nine months old at the study’s inception and three years old at the conclusion. Graduate students actually counted the number of words spoken in each of the families’ homes and also made note of the tone of voice and whether the words were emotionally positive or negative.
The results of the study indicated that the more words spoken in a positive tone in the home, the higher the children’s IQ scores were at the age of three. This result was found to be true regardless of the socioeconomic status. By the age of four, if children had grown up in a language-rich home, they had heard literally millions more words than kids in the language-impoverished homes.
Another finding in the study related to speaking style. Children who had heard a more positive tone, who had more conversational interactions, and who were asked rather than ordered tended to score higher on intelligence tests, and these were the same children as in the homes that involved more talk.