For a long time now, researchers have been trying to figure out why babies who come from poorer families have already fallen behind their wealthier counterparts in terms of their ability to talk, understand, and learn by the time they're 1 year old. Factors such as lead paint exposure; stress hormones; and lack of reading have all been brought into the discussion, but now researchers are exploring something new: How much babies are spoken to.
Talking to your baby is an innate thing for many parents. In fact, mini-sentences like Look at the trees outside; You see that doggie?; Can you say 'mama'? probably abound in your home. And that's great! You may feel like a crazy person, but there has never been any research that shows talking to your baby a lot is a bad thing. In fact, studies, evidently, show just the opposite.
But is there a "best" way to talk to your little one?
In short, no. Like all things with parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all, "best" way. But there are little things you can do all day that will help your baby's language development and their ability to understand.
1. Narrate what you're doing. I'm opening the cabinet now. I'm taking out the bowls. This is a nice bowl, isn't it? What would you like to have for lunch today? No, your baby's not going to answer you, and yes, they'll most likely just stare blankly, but it's an easy way to keep the conversation going at all times.
2. Have "conversations". One of the ways babies learn the art of conversation is by taking turns. Let him babble and coo until he's done, and then you go. He'll eventually pick up on what you're doing, and the two of you will likely go back and forth.
3. Describe what's going on. Different than narrating. If the dog is approaching your baby and you say, "Look, there's Ralph!" Or if the door opens, you can say, "Sounds like Daddy's home."
4. Read books. It will be a long time before your baby can learn to read, but doesn't mean she can't enjoy books now. Look for ones with vivid colors and pictures.
5. Use your baby's name often. As parents, we all have a million things we call our children, aside from their actual names. Nicknames are adorable, but try to help your baby know her name by speaking in third person occasionally. Would Katie like her lunch now? Is Katie tired? Why don't Mama and Katie go for a walk?
Do you talk to your baby?
Image via Randi Deuro/Flickr