Posts Tagged ‘ language development ’

Parenting Principle #2: Talk, Talk, Talk

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on the importance of talking to babies and children.

Maybe this sounds silly to you. But the fact is that parents differ tremendously in how much they talk to their kids.

Lots of studies have tracked how much parents talk to their babies and toddlers. Projects have literally recorded parental talk and counted up how many words were spoken – especially those directed to the babies and toddlers. The results can be summarized simply. The more the parents talk to their babies and toddlers, the more advanced the language skills. Not just short term, but over time as well. Babies and toddlers absorb language. But they need to hear a lot of it – and the reality is that not all of them hear as much as they should.

Parental talk doesn’t just improve language development. It’s the tool parents use to help kids direct their behavior. Finding the right words to explain rules and limits in a consistent manner makes for the most effective parenting at any age. Think about it this way. Imagine you are observing parents and toddlers in a parking lot. One parent is trying to make the toddler stay with them by grabbing their arm and giving them a spanking. Another parent is holding a child’s hand and explaining that he or she can’t run off by themselves because it’s not safe (keep in mind that the parent is holding the hold to be sure the child doesn’t run off). Which do you think is more effective, both in the short term and as a long-term parenting strategy. The power of explanation, combined with consistency and follow through, are characteristics that define an “authoritative” parenting style – the style that has been shown across decades of research to be most productive in terms of fostering positive development.

One other big thing happens when you talk to your child a lot. They tend to talk to you too. Which means that they will be comfortable confiding in you across the ages. That’s a huge benefit that will come in very handy.

More in This Series

 Keep track of your child’s milestones.

Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months

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Why You Should Talk To Your Babies

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

You may hear about lots of educational products that will make your babies “smart.” You may download lots of apps to try to give them an early cognitive “edge.” But what’s a simple thing you can do that will, over time, have huge effects on their development that far exceed whatever “benefits” the latest marketing fad can achieve? Talking to your baby.

Yes, just talking. Studies continue to show that there are huge differences in the number of words that babies (and toddlers for that matter) get exposed to – in the home. A new research study has revealed part of the effect of exposure to lots of words – it helps babies and toddlers process words quicker. The key here – as pointed out by lead researcher Anne Fernald at Stanford University – is that the faster an infant can process one word, the more ready they are to process a word that follows. While this should sound intuitive, the meaning is very deep in terms of brain processing – differences in processing speed can mean one infant is understanding a simple sentence, whereas another is not.

What’s the net effect of all of this? A language gap that starts in infancy and reverberates and grows larger through childhood. Kids who were exposed to lots of words frequently will have much better language skills.

So what can you do? Talk to your babies – a lot! Use child friendly language. Make it playful and fun. If you are out taking them for a walk and they see a dog and smile, look at them and smile and say “Doggie! Cute Doggie!” – and keep talking.

Sounds simple, right? Sounds obvious too. But we continue to see studies that suggest many babies do not get nearly enough of this. It’s so easy to do, costs nothing, makes your baby happy, makes you happy – and predicts good language development and eventual reading ability and success in school. So put down the silly toys and give the phone a rest – and talk to your baby.

Track your baby’s development with our Baby Milestone Tracker, or shop for the perfect baby book to read to your little one.

Mom With Baby via Shutterstock.com

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Increase Your Child’s Vocabulary By Putting Emotion Into Words

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Toddlers and young kids learn words rapidly. It’s amazing to watch their vocabularies grow. And one of the ways they learn naturally is by attending to the emotion in words. 

This may sound obvious. But think about how we often teach young kids new words. Drills, lists, repetition.

All of this could be spiced up pretty easily by adding some emotion to the words. Let them hear how the words are really used. Almost any new word can be used in a way that emphasizes some type of emotion – even if it’s a little subtle.

A new study published in Child Development demonstrates this principle experimentally.

While there’s still a lot of nuance to understanding more about the role that emotion plays in children’s ability to learn new words, it’s quite clear that a little affect goes a long way. So embellish those lists and flashcards with a bit of emotion.

Brain and Heart via Shutterstock.com

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Another Reason To Interact With Your Baby (And Turn Off The Electronics)

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

My fellow Parents.com blogger Holly Lebowitz Rossi published a really important post on a new study showing how babies read lips as part of the language learning process. I urge you to read Holly’s blog post to learn the details of the study. Here I want to expand a little on the findings and the very important implications for parents.

What does this study teach us?  The study used a clever design and methodology to reveal developmental patterning in the way babies orient to an adult’s face when they hear speech. Throughout the first year of life, differential attention is first given to an adult’s eyes (4 months), then eyes and mouth (6 to 8 months), then mouth (8 to 10 months), and then eyes (12 months). What’s going on here? Well, think of it this way. Young babies orient first to the eyes as the logical point of social contact; then they start to gain the ability to selectively attend to the mouth, which is cool since they’ve figured out that’s where the sounds are coming from; then they study the mouth really hard to make sense of the sounds and observe how they are produced; and finally as the sounds are making sense they refocus more on the eyes to, if you will, take in the whole social experience of language and connect with the speaker. (Keep in mind this is just my take on what’s happening – I haven’t done research with infants in a very long time!). The nice twist to the study was to observe 12-month-old infants as they looked at an adult speaking a foreign language: they focused on the mouth, just a like a 6-month old would. Why? Because they were trying to make sense of the new sounds they were hearing.

What are the implications for parents? These findings demonstrate how important the face is to a baby when they are hearing words – and how many different ways they use the face to learn a language and, more broadly, the pleasure of communication. Think about all the developmental stages that happen in just the first 12 months of life. And all of it centers on the face. So the biggest take-home message here is that babies need uninterrupted face-to-face interaction to achieve all this. Think about how pleasantly focused a baby is when you are talking, smiling, and laughing. Think about how much babies love playing games like peek-a-boo and how the game morphs with age (click here for a nice description). This is why organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that babies don’t spend too much time focusing on a TV/DVD/Smart Phone – and spend lots of time focusing on your face. It’s much more interesting (and informative) to them.

Image of a mom and baby via Shutterstock.com

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