We all enjoy talking to our babies, and making baby sounds to communicate to them, but are we doing anything to help their communication skills later on? Studies conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas seem to suggest so. In fact, they found that children from disadvantaged homes who received poor communication from their parents, did poorly in school years down the road.
Why talking to baby matters
According to this 1995 study, how much you talk to your child and the way you talk to him matters. Researchers found a shocking gap between low income families and middle class families. Children from blue collar homes heard about 600 words an hour, while children from white collar homes heard 2,100 words. Imagine how much more vocabulary a baby from a middle income home is learning compared to a baby from a deprived background.
In addition, they found that the more parents spoke encouragingly and positively to their children, the better the children did in school. Have you ever cringed when hearing parents calling their children “stupid” in the bus or on the street? They are not doing themselves any favours by doing so.
Another interesting fact discovered was that parents talk a lot more to girls than boys. This could be because of various factors, like girls being more social or chatty to begin with. But if you have a boy, you might want to try talking more to him to improve his communication skills.
However, going by this study, should we all be signing our babies up for enrichment classes in which hundreds of flash cards are shown to a baby at a time to accelerate learning? Also, should we stop using baby language when talking to baby, and only use complete, grammatically correct sentences?
The answer is probably to strike a happy medium, without being too kiasu. There is no evidence that flash cards or trendy enrichment classes for baby increase intelligence. You should attend them only if your baby enjoys them. If your baby dislikes the classes, it could in fact put them off learning.
With regards to talking to baby in proper English, there is a point to be made there. Informally, you may have observed that parents who make the effort to speak articulately to their babies have children who can speak in complete sentences earlier. This is because the babies are absorbing language and grammatical structures like sponges.
So yes, you should make the effort to speak to your baby as much as possible in as varied a manner and style as possible. Try reading to your baby as a good way to use a variety of vocabulary that you might not use in every day life. But don’t be afraid to indulge in baby talk too. Parenting should be fun and not a stressful exercise.
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