Talking with babies is more important than you may imagine. Babies learn through communicating with their parents and parents who have conversations with them early on—through talking, pointing, smiling, responding, singing, reading, and copying what their child does—jumpstart language and learning. Even though most children learn to understand and talk without much effort, there is plenty parents can do to jumpstart language skills.
Science tells us that infants and toddlers who grow up with engaged, responsive parents and plenty of language exposure in their early lives have higher IQs and larger vocabularies by age three, which gives them more knowledge and brain power later in life. When in school, they do better in reading, spelling, writing, as well as in such critical cognitive skills as problem-solving and reasoning. Talking and having back and forth conversations with infants and toddlers matters; conversations are language and brain boosters. It’s the sheer number of words, as well as how parents talk and engage that count.
TUNE IN AND ENGAGE WITH WORDS
Conversing with babies is important long before they say and understand their first words, and begins when parents first hold their baby in their arms. How to start conversations and play with a baby in those early moments and then expand them as the infant grows into a toddler is shown in my book “Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.” It encourages parents to tune in and engage with their child using words, gestures, actions, and simple, everyday toys in more effective ways that turn simple play activities into memorable learning experiences. Over 50 easy activities together with science-based tips and strategies enable parents and caregivers to improve their communication in those critical first three years as children’s brains grow and change dramatically. The activities boost language and learning, while also building the social and emotional skills children need to later do well in kindergarten and school.
Raising a Talker accompanies parents from birth to age three on one of the most fascinating journeys in young children’s development. For instance, how babies first communicate through coos, leg kicks, babbles and gestures, then learn to understand and say their first words and phrases as a toddler, and then use full-blown sentences and sophisticated words to express what they want, think, fear, or feel. Developmental overviews encourage parents to look for key changes in how young children communicate and what they learn and pick up in conversations. These overviews enable parents to know what to expect as their child goes through the various stages, and to more actively tune in and support the child’s development. Common questions such as “When should I start talking with my baby?”, “When should I start reading?”, or “Why are rhymes and rhyme songs so important?” are discussed throughout the book.
What sets Raising a Talker apart from other play books is that science-based tips and strategies accompany the play activities. The book brings key research findings into parents’ homes, so they can make small changes and tweaks as they read aloud, respond, sing, talk and babble with their young children. Many parents are naturals and may already have been doing the ‘right’ thing to help their child learn but my book also explains why certain changes work and boost learning. For example: why pointing and looking at an object while naming it can do wonders for getting word learning off the ground; why simply smiling, talking or babbling back when the child starts to babble encourages her to talk and advances her speech; or why dragging out vowels helps the child to learn and discriminate speech sounds and build first literacy skills.
Another feature that sets Raising a Talker apart from other play books are the “What to look out for” sections built into every play activity. Specific questions such as “Does the baby point at things and babble?” allow the parent to become a more active observer and to better understand how their child learns and grows. More general communication tips as the child moves from cooing to talking give the parent pointers on how to tap into the child’s developing skills and extend them at each stage.
TALKING EQUALS LEARNING
Since so much of a child’s brain development goes on before age three, how parents and caregivers interact in those early months and years is critical. As parents talk and engage, they do so much more than ‘just’ helping the child to understand and talk. They enable the child to build a strong bond, to build the knowledge and confidence necessary to express himself, to engage with other people, to regulate his or her emotions, and to make friends with peers.
It is through words that we most connect with others, and that’s why providing young children with language-rich interactions that allow them to develop strong language skills themselves is so important. Raising a Talker provides tools and information to spark conversations and learning right from birth to give the child high quality learning experiences for a promising future ahead. Let’s remember: Talking and engaging translates into learning for the child, and the more words and responses young children get, the more opportunities they have to learn and grow.
This is a sponsored post from Gryphon House.
Renate Zangl, PhD, is an educator and child language researcher interested in how infants and toddlers learn to communicate, understand and talk. With over 15 years of experience in the field, she has published numerous books and articles, and worked at various research institutions in the United States and Europe, including Stanford University; University of California, San Diego; Graz University, Austria; and Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Paris. Zangl has worked (and played!) for many years with young children when they first start to communicate, understand, and talk, and with bilingual children, children learning a second language in their school years, and children with special needs. See Raising a Talker for more information.