Want your little one to master more words? Try one-on-one baby talk!
We’ve talked a lot on our blog about the fact that babies’ brains begin learning to talk from the time they are born simply by listening to those around them speak. There are two critical components to that happening:
It’s amazing to think that language acquisition starts before the first “goo goo gaga” — and that the early conversations we have with baby, and the early babbles and coos they say in response, are paving the way for learning and literacy. During this formative time we know that the more words a baby hears, the faster their vocabulary tends to grow. Now studies are showing us that it’s not just the quantity of words that counts, but how we talk to children matters. Researchers Patricia Kuhl at the University of Washington and Nairán Ramírez-Esparza at the University of Connecticut recorded thousands of verbal exchanges between parents and babies to understand how two particular aspects of parental speech impacted babies’ language development:
The findings, which were published in the Journal of Developmental Science, were very interesting. Children who had more baby talk in one-on-one conversations with their parents had better language development — both during the study and in the future.
More baby talkThe more parents exaggerated vowels — like “Helloooooooo!” — with the pitch of their voices raised, the more one-year-olds babbled, “returning” the adult’s “serve” and practicing future conversation patterns.
More individual talkThe baby talk worked best when the parents would speak to the child one-on-one, without others (children or adult) around.
What’s amazing is that — not only did the infants who heard baby talk babble back more during the study, but when researchers Kuhl and Ramirez-Esparza checked back with them a year later, they found that infants who heard more baby talk knew more words. Two year-olds in families who:
That’s a pretty dramatic difference! Parents who think they just speak that way because it’s cute and makes baby laugh can pat themselves on the back! You’ve been benefiting your child without realizing it.
While the findings of this study are true for all babies, this is particularly important for parents of infants with hearing loss. The fact that children who are born D/HH can learn to listen and talk, and reach learning and literacy outcomes on par with their hearing peers — is still new news to many people.A parent may not make a point to speak one-on-one to a baby who is hearing impaired if they are unsure if their baby can hear them. And obviously those who do not know the status of their baby’s hearing risk the child’s brain not having access to the sounds the parents are making — baby talk or otherwise. So first and foremost, find out the status of your baby’s hearing.
Families who choose a Listening and Spoken Language outcome for their child must be intentional about language acquisition from day one. So what does this study suggest you might integrate into your communication patterns at home?
When Kuhl and Ramirez reviewed the scans of babies’ brains during these thousands of exchanges, they found that infants as little as 7 months old were rehearsing speech mechanics. That is to say, their baby brain was already trying to figure out how to make the movements they need to produce words. Remember, have your baby wear their hearing technology whenever they are awake so that they can learn through listening and follow these tips to for how to talk to your baby.
Learn More About It:Watch these videos to learn more about parentese:
Parentese: It’s Never too EArly to Start a Conversation:
Baby Talk Really Does Help Build Your Kiddy-Widdy’s Vocabulary:
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