10 Things to Know About Talking

How They Learn

6. Signing may help kids learn language.

At the very least, it can help ease frustration kids can have before they learn to talk. By teaching your child to sign words like "more," you give him tools to ask for the things he needs (and without the tears -- hurray!). If you say the word every time you sign, you're reinforcing the association between the sound and the object.

7. There is a reason we speak "motherese."

Those short sentences, that high-pitched voice: you know you do it! Even older children talk this way to younger kids. But never fear, there's a method to our madness. The higher pitch helps gain baby's attention, and the simple sentences ensure that she'll be better able to understand what you're saying.

9. First words are based on needs and interests.

Just ask Brooke Kimball from Proctor, Vermont, whose sports-obsessed son could say, "Get the ball," at 10 months. "He had the motivation to string the words together to get what he wanted," she says. Other likely topics of conversation include favorite foods, labels (dog), or action words (more, up, no).

10. Reading stimulates language.

When you read to your kid, you're interacting with her and allowing her to hear the rhythm of your voice. Plus, you're exposing her to many words that don't typically come up in everyday life. For instance, when was the last time you said "hippopotamus" in casual conversation? And not only is she exposed to more words, she's introduced to different word orders: Is it a unicorn? It is a unicorn! Studies show that children who are read to have greater language comprehension and a more expressive vocabulary. Getting tired of reading Goodnight Moon for the umpteenth time? You don't necessarily have to read every word of a book for it to be beneficial. As you go through the pages, talk about the pictures, point out the colors and objects, and ask questions about the various scenes.

Originally published in the March 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.

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