Want Verbal Kids? Say 'Uh' a Lot

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

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