From the moment you learned you were pregnant, you found yourself talking to your belly while idly caressing your growing bump. Baby talk comes naturally to some, while many remain quiet. Unknowingly setting their child up for possible failure.
“Studies have shown that even during development in the womb a baby learns familiar sounds and even voices,” says Lorraine Charles, M.D., of Saint Thomas Medical Partners in Nashville. “Familiar voices, such as those of mom and dad, bring comfort to a baby.” However, once your baby is born, don’t let those moments of talking slip by. Growing children need you to talk to them more than you know.
“Talking to small children early in life helps them to feel safe while teaching them about the world around them,” says Charles. “It enhances their vocabulary and helps them to soon communicate their needs and feelings.”
The Complexity of Your Conversation
Research over the years say that you should speak about 2,100 words per hour to your child. However, a recent finding shows that the number of words spoken has been increased to 2,500 words per hour. That’s a lot of gibberish if you speak baby talk. So, why not turn it around? Add your own style of talk. The more you talk, the better anyway.
“Instead of focusing on word count, practice discussing a variety of topics,” says Charles. Talking about the world around you teaches your child important words and phrases early in life. Even your tone of voice helps them learn such as when something is supportive or a warning of danger. “Over time your child begins to hear the tone in your voice and know what you mean even if he’s not able to communicate back,” adds Charles. She says that you should speak regular words and phrases while your child’s an infant.
“Speak slowly and clearly to help facilitate understanding,” adds Charles. “Speak to your child about everything and anything from the weather, grocery lists to feelings of sadness and joy. He will soon begin to understand the complex world around them and how to communicate in it.”
If you feel you can’t find enough conversations to have with your child, talk about other things that need no response back. “Research shows that exceeding 2,100 words per hour correlates with improved language learning in young children,” says J.C. Anderson, M.D., board certified pediatrician at Children’s Clinic East in Hermitage. “Consider reading things you receive (like texts) out loud. If you work from home, read those boring emails out loud. Your young child does not find them boring, he’ll be excited to hear your voice.”
However, that doesn’t mean to keep everything in a monotone voice and certainly to rely on TV or recordings. “The superpower you have, that no computer will ever have, is your heart and spirit,” says Anderson. “You teach your child how to feel and how to interact with the world in a healthy way when you talk to him.”
The Risks of Not Talking Enough
Your child learns about his environment through the way you talk to him. You help shape him with every word you speak. The less you talk to him, the more at risk he becomes. Do you find yourself in moments where there’s nothing going on? Don’t take advantage of the down time to check emails, respond to texts, etc., while your child sits idly by. “One of the saddest things I see, on a daily basis in my office, is when I walk in a room and find the parent busy on the phone, texting or responding to social media, and their young child separated from them, watching a video,” says Anderson.
“Children who do not hear many words from the parents have been shown to behind in terms of language development,” says Charles. “This may affect learning to read, write and the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings which affects their overall development.”
Help build a brighter future for your child by simply talking to him. Your meaningless banter has more power when exercised early in life, but continue to do so often as the years go by.
“Your face, your voice, your emotion, your heart, can help your child succeed in life,” says Anderson. “Make sure, every day, that you take time to turn off your devices, look in your child’s eyes and use your superpowers.”