If some jerk has ever said that you talk too much, then the sweet revenge is that you are likely providing the best environment for your child to learn language. Although children are hardwired to communicate, they need attentive role models to understand the nuances of language. In his national bestseller book, “Brain Rules for Baby,” John Medina notes that the frequency and quality of communication between parent and child, as well as the amount of positive reinforcement provided, are the key factors in preschoolers developing strong language skills. Talking to your child regularly, he says, increases her vocabulary and can boost her IQ 1.5 times higher than her 3-year-old peers.
The Language Explosion
Children achieve language acquisition in an amazingly short period of time. When your baby babbles her first “dada” or “baba,” the sun seems to shine for days. By her third birthday, you will lock yourself in a closet just to get five minutes of quiet time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by 24 months old, most children can speak 50 words, even if they aren’t used every day. A tremendous growth erupts during the next six months. With an average of 150 words at their disposal, they begin creating two-word phrases, such as “Yes, please,” or “All done.” By the time they blow out three candles on the cake, most children are speaking in complete sentences.
Speak as Often as You Can
The earliest words identify the people and objects children encounter in their daily worlds, such as mama, juice and dog. You can encourage the development of your child’s language skills by supplying words that help her make sense of her surroundings. Narrating your day may seem a bit batty at first, but your little sponge will be nearby to soak up everything you say. You should not keep up a constant stream of chatter–actually, overstimulation can harm your child’s brain–but you can label everything you see, from colors and shapes to activities and people.
The Importance of Parentese
Perhaps it is annoying to everyone else around you, but that high-pitched, sing-song voice you use with youngsters is actually an evolutionary behavior that best helps them learn the proper way to speak. The slower speech and melodic tone of the stretched-out vowels are easier for pint-sized brains to understand and remember. Although most parents outgrow true baby talk by the time their child turns 3 years old, parentese is still important. You must learn your child’s language before she can learn yours.
Be a Conversational Partner
As a conversational partner, be aware of the speed, volume, tone and variety of words you use to explain things. You should also resist the urge to correct her when she says, “Her did it” or “I is tired.” Instead, when you respond, model the correct way to word the sentence, such as, “Yes, she did it” or “I am tired, too.” As her language skills develop, she will naturally correct these small stumbles over plurals, pronouns, verbs and past tense.