How to Have a “conversation” With an Infant

New parents often hear advice: you need to talk to your baby! A lot ! The SuperBaby book states that 30,000 words a day is the magic number for optimal language success. One landmark study found that children who heard 45 million words by age three had the highest scores in reading and math later. There’s even a portable word counter that you can attach to your child’s jumpsuit and see through the app if you’re meeting your daily vocabulary goals. Mostly verbal Fitbit.

When my daughter was little, I gave top priority to making sure she heard all the words . I would say the names of all kinds of pasta at Trader Joe when she looked at me in the shopping cart. I sang “Don’t Cry For Me Baby” to the tune “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” I read her the latest celebrity news on Us Weekly (hey 2 month olds have no choice in their literature). I talked, talked and talked more after learning that the earliest moments in a child’s life are critical to language development.

However, now in 2018, it may be time to rethink the word “dump”. MIT researchers have discovered something new: just talking to your child is not enough to truly open the door to strong literary skills. Instead, you should talk to them.

From MIT News :

MIT cognitive scientists have now found that talking between an adult and a child seems to alter a child’s brain, and that this back and forth conversation is actually more important to language development than a verbal break. In a study of children ages 4 to 6, they found that differences in the number of “conversation turns” explained much of the differences in brain physiology and language skills they found in children. This finding applies to children regardless of parental income or education.

The study, which compared brain scans of children to data obtained from audio recordings, was conducted with children between the ages of four and six, but the researchers said there are implications for parents of younger children. “Even from infancy, we can view children as interlocutors,” said Rachel Romeo, lead author of an article published in the journal Psychological Sciences . “… This seems to be the interaction that best supports children’s language skills and their underlying neural development.”

This means do not stop talking to your baby, but allow his non-verbal cues and responses to help guide the “conversation”. There are several ways to do this:

Have a direct dialogue. For example, you: “Did you see the bus passing by?” Baby: “Pooh Gah Ooo”. You: “Yes, it was big and yellow!”

Read books online. If your child thinks they are looking at a certain character or object in a book, you can expand it by saying, “Oh, you seem to be very interested in a turtle! Look, he has a shell! I wonder what he ate today. “

Share coos and sounds. If your child is squealing, you can imitate him by moving back and forth as if it were a game.

Ask before picking up your baby. Parenting educator Janet Lansbury suggests asking, “Do you want me to pick you up? or “Are you ready for me to pick you up?” – and then wait a little. “It gives babies a great opportunity to communicate their needs and wants,” she writes. “Babies learn to raise their arms, move their arms, or otherwise signal readiness on their own.”

Expand their sounds. When my daughter was little, she used to say ” mih ” when she wanted milk. Tell us about their early attempts to speak. “Do you want some milk? Certainly! Here is milk! Thanks for the question. “

Look your child in the eye. It is not enough for your child to listen to the conversations you have with other people. Talk to your baby directly and then listen to what he has to say.

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