Don’t Just Do It – Talk Them Through It

black father with babyI talk to myself all the time and have been teased about it over the years.  I used to be embarrassed by this trait and would try hard to not speak out loud when I knew someone else was in the house.  When I had my first child, I was glad to have a built-in excuse for talking out loud, babbling constantly with my little newborn.  “Oh, we need to change your diaper.  Let’s put you on the changing table.  Ooh, nice kick!  Look at your toes.  You have ten of them.  Let’s count them. (Which I then proceeded to do)  Where’s your nose?  There it is!  Nose, eyes, mouth, ears, etc.”  You get the point.  It was non-stop all day.  

A recent book, Thirty Million Words, is now validating my constant babbling.  Professor Dana Suskind, MD, is a cochlear implant surgeon who has studied the impact of early language on a child’s brain development.  According to the publishers,  “A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.”

Professor Suskind encourages parents to use what she calls the “3 Ts”.  

  • Tune In by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you.
  • Talk More with your child using descriptive words to build his vocabulary
  • Take Turns by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions.

Following these suggestions won’t guarantee a child will turn out to be a genius, but increasing your child’s vocabulary and teaching language skills from the very beginning has been proven to help children in school.  What parent wouldn’t want that?  So go ahead.  Talk….and talk….and talk some more.  And when your child can talk, take turns.  

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: P.H. Brookes.

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