Want Verbal Kids? Say 'Uh' a Lot

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Toddler TalkingAs someone who has speech trained others and been speech trained myself countless times, I cringe when people say "uh" and "um" too much. I do it all the time still, but it bugs me nonetheless. Turns out, when it comes to parenting, those little words can actually do big things for building your child's vocabulary.

A recent study of children between 18-30 months old found that when parents stumbled for words, their children paid attention to an unfamiliar image longer. Researchers say children see the "ums" and "uhs" (technically known as disfluencies) as signals that they're going to learn something new, so they pay closer attention.

They don't recommend that parents do it on purpose, but it won't hurt. The correlation was also only found in children older than 24 months. In a statement researchers said:

"We're not advocating that parents add disfluencies to their speech, but I think it's nice for them to know that using these verbal pauses is OK -- the 'uhs' and 'ums' are informative."

Personally, this is good news for me. I have a 7-year-old with whom I am currently constantly nagging to stop with all the "ums" and "wells" and just get it out already. However, since I also have a toddler daughter nearby for much of what he has to say, perhaps she's soaking it all up. She is quite chatty.

I'm also amazed how when I read to my 2-year-old daughter and pause here and there throughout the text (usually when I'm zoning out or nodding off a bit), how much she will fill in for me. She's clearly been paying attention and memorizing more than I would have thought.

So here's to ... uh, sub-par speaking skills!

Do you use "uh" and "um" a lot when you speak to your toddler?


Image via Nieve44/La Luz/Flickr

a mom's life, learning, language

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nonmember avatar Mike M

Julie, I'm just guessing on this but perhaps people who often use disfluencies in their speech are more introverted than most people? (My reasoning is that they're likely to want to spend more time thinking about what they want to say than someone who speaks fluidly. If you're interested in learning more about introverts and extroverts there's a very good article at Psychology Today titled "Revenge of the Introvert" which you can easily find by doing a web search. [For those who watch MythBusters, Jamie and Adam are good examples of an introvert and an extrovert.]) Though this could also be due to a limited amount of self-confidence (if that's the case then criticizing them isn't likely going to help them become more confident about saying what's on their mind - it's much better to be more accepting and less judgmental of them).

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