How to Talk With Your Baby…and Make Her Smart

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How to Talk With Your Baby...and Make Her SmartDid you know that the first three years of life are the most important for the development of your baby’s brain? Learning starts way before school does. During the first three years, your child’s brain will triple in size and establish about 1,000 trillion nerve connections. However, these connections do not just happen on their own. They occur as your baby interacts with his world. Everything he sees, hears, touches and does forms a new connection in his brain and helps build the brain architecture that will be needed later in life.

Though there are many fancy toys, DVDs, tapes and programs on the market claiming to help your baby’s brain development, none of these things are the most important contributor to you baby’s brain development. Rather, YOU are the best thing for your baby to see, hear and learn from. In fact, if you want to help your baby’s brain as much as possible, it’s as simple as this: talk with your baby.

Research has shown that children from talkative families have heard 30 million more words by age 3 than children from less talkative families. The more words these children heard, the better they did on tests of cognitive development and the better they did on reading readiness tests in the third grade. No fancy flashcards or expensive DVD sets are necessary. Talking, reading and interacting with your child right from the start and at every chance you get is the best thing you can do for her in this critical developmental stage.

Still not sure how to put this into action? Check out some of these simple tips:

Describe everyday tasks to your baby as you do them.

Give him a play-by-play. Whether it’s changing his diaper, preparing dinner or shopping at the supermarket, say what you are doing and use as many descriptive words as possible. “Now its time to put your pretty blue shirt on.” “We put the yummy pasta in the pot of boiling water.” “The big banana is bright yellow.” Even though he doesn’t respond verbally, he is taking in every sound and word you say.

Make your voice higher and stretch out the vowel sounds.

You may feel silly using this high-pitch voice, but everyone is familiar with it and it’s important. It makes it easier for her brain to take in the sounds. Repeat words! Repeat words! Babies’ brains are making a compilation of all the different sounds they hear; so the more you say the sounds, the easier it is to learn them.

Be creative with everyday objects.

Make up stories or a sing a song. As you are going on a walk, sing about the falling leaves. During playtime, create a story with a “family” of blocks going on an adventure.

Create a language-rich environment in your house.

In addition to lots of talking, put up schedules, quotes, labels and lists. Consider having a “word of the day” wall and of course, have lots of books! However, don’t use too much of TV or CDs—these are not effective teachers of language. Children learn best through personal relationships. Keep books in your diaper bag instead of handing your child your phone. Even when he doesn’t know what it is and can’t read it, familiarizing him with books right from start will help him to enjoy them in the future.

You may feel silly or embarrassed when you first try out some of these tips, but don’t be. There is nothing embarrassing about being the best parent you can be, and your child will grow up doing better in reading, in school, in social relationships and in life. So warm up your vocal chords and spread the word: Talk With Your Baby!!

TalkWithYourBabyKris Arizmendi is a mother and coordinator for the Talk With Your Baby program in South Bend, IN. Talk With Your Baby classes are taught by trained facilitators and include discussion, tips, sharing experiences and specific information about how talking promotes a baby’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Class participants leave with ideas, children’s books, educational materials and products provided by the PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great initiative. For more information, tips and free classes, go to: talkwithyourbaby.org or www.facebook.com/talkwithyourbaby.

 

{Photo credit @iStock.com/spfoto.}

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