Talking to your baby may be the best thing you can do to foster language development, with one caveat-make sure your child is talking back to you.
Whether it’s just the baby sound of “ga” or a two-word sentence, the interaction between child and adult is an important component of children’s language skills.
“It’s not just language kids are learning, it’s communication and communication is a two-way street. The more practice they get, the better they are,” says Frederick Zimmerman, associate professor at UCLA and lead researcher on a recent study about language development.
The study of 275 families with children age 2 months to 2 years showed that children with high language scores engaged in a lot of conversation with adults. And in a new twist on language studies, computer software was used to objectively assess the language of both the children and the adults.
The results of the study show that the more language a child hears, the better their language development. But the interactions between the parents and the child are even more crucial.
Zimmerman suggests that when parents are talking to their baby, they encourage the child to respond. “Parents intuitively know what the right thing to do is, to have conversations with their child, to interact with them,” he says. “The main message is to avoid taking too many shortcuts. We all get tired and there’s definitely a time when you feel like you’re tapped out, but remember these conversations are the foundation of the parent-child relationship.”